WASHINGTON – Their brother Rus Lodi calls them “leadership junkies.”
If you’re a soldier, you’d better just call them ma’am and salute.
Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and younger sister Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi are each accomplished in their own fields. But together they have become became the first two sisters, the Army believes, to attain the general’s rank in the service's 244-year history.
"Maj. Gen. Maria Barrett and Brig. Gen. Paula Lodi represent the best America has to offer," said Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy. "However, this comes as no surprise to those who have known them and loved them throughout this extraordinary journey. This is a proud moment for their families and for the Army."
Fathers and sons have risen to general, including Gen. George Casey, who retired as Chief of Staff of the Army; his father, Maj. Gen. George Casey, Sr., was killed in action in Vietnam. Then there’s the Brooks family. Leo Brooks retired as a brigadier general, and his sons Leo, Jr., and Vincent, went on to become a one- and a four-star general respectively. There is even a wife-and-husband team of three-stars: Laura and James Richardson.
Sisters would have to wait.
The military didn't officially accept women into its ranks until the Army Nursing Corps was established in 1901. Women, of course, served unofficially before that, some in disguise since the Revolutionary War, according to the U.S. Army Women's Museum.
The Pentagon and Congress had limited the role of women in combat until opening all fields in 2015.
Since then, more than a dozen women have graduated from the Army's Ranger School, its proving ground for elite infantry soldiers. Command of combat units is key to ascending to the highest ranks in the military.
Overall, women make up more than 16% of the military's active-duty force of 1.3 million. Women account for 69 of the 417 generals and admirals.
The sisters' achievement is a remarkable milestone for women in the military, said Melissa Dalton, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Defense Department official. She put it in the class of retired Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody, the first woman in any service to attain four stars.
"For both men and women increasingly normalizing women in leadership positions matters," Dalton said. "The fact that it comes from same family is an incredible accomplishment."