Newsletter #320 | News
Cal Guard Black Hawk pilot promoted to general
US Army Black Hawk pilot Colonel Laura Yeager soon to be Brigadier general. She served in Iraq and later commanded the California National Guard’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade
US Army, May 24, 2016 - SACRAMENTO, CA by Capt. Jason Sweeney - Although Col. Laura Yeager, soon to be Brig. Gen. Laura Yeager, is not related to the fast flying Chuck Yeager who famously was the first pilot to break the sound barrier, she does have quite the aviation pedigree of her own.
She flew UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters during a combat deployment to Iraq and commanded the California National Guard’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, among many other accomplishments over her military career. Her father, retired California National Guard Maj. Gen. Robert Brandt, was also a helicopter pilot who served two tours in Vietnam.
“My father has been a tremendous role model to me, both as a parent and as an officer and I have benefited immensely from his mentorship,” Yeager said. “He always had high expectations for me but I was given a lot of independence to pursue my own path.”
On May 31, Yeager will be promoted to brigadier general, making her the fourth female general in California National Guard history.
“I am honored to serve at this level and know that it comes with the responsibility to use the position and authority I am being given in order to serve the needs of our members and the organization,” she said. “I have enjoyed my career so much that it is hard for me to believe that I have been serving for 30 years, but I have, and being promoted will allow me to continue to serve in this great profession.”
Yeager will be one of two female generals currently serving in the Cal Guard.
“As a female, I have found the military to provide opportunities and benefits unmatched by any profession,” she said. “Clearly, females are in the minority within the military, yet in every assignment I have held, my mostly male peers, subordinates and superiors, have supported me, treated me with respect, coached, mentored and advised me. At the same time, I have been inspired by the incredibly strong and amazing women I have served with and for. Needless to say, I would not have achieved this rank without every one of them, from the professor of military science at Long Beach State, to the platoon sergeant I served with as a platoon leader, ranging all the way up to brigade commanders and the adjutant general.”
Yeager serves as the California National Guard Director for the Military Department Joint Staff. In this capacity, she serves Adjutant General Maj. Gen. David Baldwin and implements his vision to ensure the California National Guard has mission-ready forces that meet the needs of the state and nation. In emergency situations, Yeager can be authorized to serve as the sole military commander for both active duty and reserve component forces deployed during domestic incidents.
Yeager’s active duty military service began in May 1986 after receiving her commission as a second lieutenant from the Reserve Officer Training Corps. She began her Army career in the Medical Service Corps, but like her father, was attracted to flying.
“Though my dad was a pilot, I had never really considered becoming one myself, but once I decided to join the military, I wanted to do something that would be vastly different from anything I could do in a civilian occupation,” she said. “Once I had a chance to fly in a helicopter as an ROTC cadet, I was hooked and became obsessed with going to flight school. To this day, the sound of a helicopter is music to my ears and I never get tired of being on one or even seeing one in flight.”
She completed military helicopter training in 1989 and began service as an aeromedical evacuation pilot.
“I left active duty not long after my son Scott was born,” she said. “My husband and I were both serving on active duty and were finding maintaining two careers put a huge strain on our family. During transition counseling, I was introduced to the idea of serving in the reserve component. Serving in the reserves was a perfect balance between having a career and managing a great family life. I very much enjoyed my eight years of service on active duty, but in the National Guard I find the dedication, loyalty, sense of teamwork and professionalism of our members to be far superior. After my husband decided it was time for him to retire a little over 10 years ago, I was able to transition into a full-time position in the Guard.”
The National Guard proved a good fit for Yeager, in terms of both her career as an officer and as a helicopter pilot. In 2011, she deployed to Iraq with the California National Guard’s 40th Combat Aviation Brigade where she served as the brigade’s deputy commander while also flying UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters in a combat environment.
“It was difficult to be separated from my family, but serving in Iraq and having the opportunity to fly throughout the country, was professionally satisfying and extremely memorable for me,” she said.
Upon her return from Iraq, she took command of the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade.
“Definitely being in command are the assignments and memories I most cherish, all the way from being a platoon leader to brigade command,” she said. “I was especially proud to have commanded the same brigade, the 40th CAB, my father once commanded.”
“I could not be more proud of Laura for choosing a professional career in which she has devoted her life to the service of our nation,” her father, retired Maj. Gen. Brandt, said. “I am pleased to witness the confidence and trust with which the California National Guard and United States Army have placed in Laura's ability as a Soldier. Laura is a professional Soldier capable of commanding any organization, including the 40th Infantry Division.”
Maj. Gen. Baldwin will promote Yeager to brigadier general at a ceremony May 31 at the Sierra View Country Club in Roseville, California.
“Colonel Yeager has proven herself as a leader on both the battlefield and here at home,” Baldwin said. “Whether she’s at the helm of a Black Hawk helicopter in Iraq or leading emergency-response operations in Sacramento, she always leads from the front with the well-being of her troops in mind.”
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California National Guard US Army Aviation
40th CAB 40th Combat Aviation Brigade US Army Aviation