Brigadier Gen. Janeen Birckhead never imagined a career in the military while she was applying to colleges. However, her application for an ROTC scholarship at Hampton University would change the trajectory of her life. Today, she serves as Maryland’s 31st adjutant general, making her the only Black woman leading a state military in the United States.
Birckhead’s journey began with a challenge from her mother to apply for the ROTC scholarship. “I got the interview, and then, after I got the interview, I went through the process, and I was awarded the scholarship. How can you turn it down? So that was the journey. That’s how the journey began,” Birckhead shared with NPR.
From her upbringing on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to the highest military position in the state, Birckhead has come a long way. Gov. Wes Moore appointed her as adjutant general in April, entrusting her with the combat readiness of 4,600 soldiers. Moore expressed his confidence in her leadership skills, stating, “Her record proves her readiness to serve at the highest-ranking military position in the state of Maryland.”
Birckhead credits her time in the pirate battalion, Hampton University’s ROTC program, for shaping the leader she is today. The program instilled in her values of hard work, dedication, and discipline. These qualities have proven invaluable as she has taken on various command roles throughout her 30-year military career.
Prior to her current role, Birckhead served on the staff of former Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican. She was appointed by Hogan in early 2021 as the task force commander for the soldiers guarding the U.S. Capitol after the January 6 attack. Additionally, she led the Maryland National Guard’s security mission for President Biden’s inauguration.
Recognizing Birckhead’s exceptional abilities, Hogan later appointed her to lead the country’s first operational vaccine equity task force. In this position, she played a crucial role in distributing vaccines, prioritizing underserved communities, and ensuring equity in vaccine access.
As the only Black woman leading a state military, Birckhead represents progress towards increased diversity and representation in the military. Her trailblazing journey serves as an inspiration to aspiring leaders, emphasizing the importance of perseverance, seizing opportunities, and breaking barriers.
Q: How did Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead begin her military career?
A: Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead began her military career by applying for an ROTC scholarship at Hampton University in Virginia.
Q: What is Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead’s current position?
A: Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead currently serves as Maryland’s 31st adjutant general, making her the only Black woman leading a state military in the U.S.
Q: How did Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead contribute to COVID-19 vaccine distribution?
A: Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead led the country’s first operational vaccine equity task force, playing a key role in distributing vaccines and ensuring equity in vaccine access.