U.S. West Point academy swears in first woman commandant of cadets

WEST POINT, N.Y. (Reuters) - The first female commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy was sworn in on Tuesday, the latest milestone for American women who now are allowed to serve all military combat roles.

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Brigadier General Diana Holland, 47, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, assumed the leadership post after being honored in packed ceremony at the academy 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City, whose graduates typically serve as Army officers.

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” said Holland, a 1990 West Point graduate who thanked her husband and father for their support and said she looked forward to working with the cadets. “They ask for so little, only to be well led.”

Holland assumes the historic leadership position a month after the U.S. military struck down gender barriers in the armed forces, announcing it would accept women in all combat jobs previously open only to men, from leading infantry soldiers into battle to serving as Navy SEALS.

At the ceremony, West Point superintendent Lieutenant General Robert Caslen gave a nod to other female alumni who recently made military history, including the first two women to receive the coveted U.S. Army Ranger title, Army Captain Kristen Griest and First Lieutenant Shaye Haver, who completed their training in August 2015.

Holland’s resume includes barrier-breaking accomplishments such as becoming the first female general of the U.S. Army Fort Drum & 10th Mountain Division.

Holland, whose hometown is Santa Barbara, California, served in Germany as well as in deployments to Iraq in 2004 and Afghanistan in 2010 and 2013.

As the 76th Commandant of Cadets, she replaces Major General John Thomson III.

The new post marks a return to West Point for Holland, who taught history at the academy after earning a master’s degree at Duke University.

West Point, founded in 1802, accepted its first female cadets in 1976.

Writing by Barbara Goldberg; editing by David Gregorio