Call of Duty: 17 Top Black Military Officers

These high-ranking leaders are rare and serve their country with distinction.

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    Gen. Dennis L. Via (U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons); Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson (U.S. Army); Adm. Cecil D. Haney (U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons)

    For Veterans Day, we wanted to recognize some of the top African-American military officers in the U.S. armed forces who are serving their country with distinction, even as black officers in the military’s upper ranks remain a rarity.

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    U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons

    Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III

    Last year Army Gen. Austin became the 12th commander of Central Command—and the first African American to hold the position—in charge of U.S. military operations in the Middle East. As head of Centcom, the four-star general is the top military commander leading the fight against ISIS militants near the Iraq-Syria border. Prior to taking over Centcom, Austin was the vice chief of staff of the Army and the last commanding general for U.S. forces in Iraq.

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    U.S. Army

    Maj. Gen. Marcia M. Anderson

    Maj. Gen. Anderson made history in 2011, becoming the Army’s first African-American woman to earn the rank of major general. Anderson is currently serving as the deputy chief of the Army Reserve, where she is responsible for developing professional- and leadership-training programs.

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    U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons

    Gen. Larry O. Spencer

    Air Force Gen. Spencer is the vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force. Spencer, a four-star general serving at the Pentagon, presides over the Air Force staff and assists the chief of staff with organizing and training active-duty and civilian forces in the United States and overseas.

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    U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons

    Adm. Cecil D. Haney

    Adm. Haney is currently the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, whose mission is to “detect, deter and prevent strategic attacks against the United States and its allies.” Prior to assuming his new position last November, the four-star admiral was the 60th commander of the Pacific Fleet, the world’s largest fleet command. Before he took over the Pacific Fleet, he was deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command.

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    U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons

    Gen. Dennis L. Via

    Army Gen. Via is commanding general for the Army Materiel Command, which handles equipment and supplies for the military. As stated on the AMC website, “If a soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.” Via, a four-star general, is also the highest-ranking officer of the Signal Corps, which installs and manages military data communications.

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    U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons

    Maj. Gen. Gwen Bingham

    In June Maj. Gen. Bingham was named commander of the TACOM Life Cycle Management Command at Detroit Arsenal in Warren, Mich. She is the first woman to hold the position. As part of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, TACOM provides the necessary tools to mobilize and sustain military personnel.

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    U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons

    Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr.

    Gen. Rice is commander of the Air Education and Training Command at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio. The four-star general oversees the recruiting, training and educating of Air Force personnel. 

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    YouTube screenshot

    Retired Vice Adm. Manson K. Brown

    Vice Adm. Brown retired this year as the highest-ranking black officer in Coast Guard history. Before retiring, he was the deputy commandant for mission support for the U.S. Coast Guard, responsible for managing all Coast Guard assets, from acquisition to decommission.

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    U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons

    Gen. Vincent K. Brooks

    Army Gen. Brooks oversees the U.S. Army Pacific forces, part of the U.S. Pacific Command. The four-star general was previously commander of the 3rd Army, which includes soldiers in the Central Command and forces throughout Central Asia and the Middle East. A graduate of West Point, Brooks became the first African-American cadet in the school’s history to be named brigade commander (the top-ranking cadet) in 1980.

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    U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons

    Adm. Michelle J. Howard

    In July Adm. Howard became the first African-American woman to become a four-star officer in the military and the first woman to earn four stars in the Navy. She is currently the 38th vice chief of naval operations. Among her other historic feats: In March 1999 she took command of the USS Rushmore, becoming the first woman to command a warship in the U.S. Navy.

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    U.S. Navy

    Rear Adm. Annie B. Andrews

    Rear Adm. Andrews was named commander of Navy Recruiting Command in August. In her role as a human resources officer, she oversees the training and education of Navy personnel. She is the third African-American woman to achieve the rank of rear admiral.

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    U.S. Army Corps/Wikimedia Commons

    Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick

    In 2012 Lt. Gen. Bostick became the 53rd chief of engineers and commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, overseeing more than 37,000 military and civilian personnel in the engineering, design and construction of public works. Bostick is only the second African American to hold the position.

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    Sgt. Jacob Harrer/U.S. Marines

    Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Bailey

    Marine Lt. Gen. Bailey recently received his third star and was promoted to deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations at Marine Corps headquarters at the Pentagon. Prior to his new post, he was commanding general of the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based 1st Marine Division, the oldest, largest and most decorated combat unit in the Marine Corps. He is the first African American to hold the post.

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    U.S. Air Force

    Lt. Gen. Darren W. McDew

    Air Force Lt. Gen. McDew was named commander of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois in May. Air Mobility Command’s main mission is to provide rapid, global mobility for the U.S. armed forces as well as provide humanitarian support at home and abroad.

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    U.S. Army

    Brig. Gen. Kaffia Jones

    Brig. Gen. Jones is the deputy commanding general for the 335th Signal Command (Theater). In that role, she helps provide critical communications and information services for the armed forces in southwest Asia, as well as homeland-defense operations as directed by the U.S. Army Reserve Command.

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    U.S. Navy

    Rear Adm. John W. Smith Jr.

    Navy Rear Adm. Smith is commandant for the Joint Forces Staff College at the National Defense University in Norfolk, Va. Prior to his new position, he was commander of the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.

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    U.S. Army

    Maj. Gen. Nadja Y. West

    Army Maj. Gen. West is joint staff surgeon at the Pentagon. The joint staff serves the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C. She was previously the deputy chief of staff for support at the U.S. Army Medical Department.

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