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The Army's first black female three-star grew up an orphan

Two months ago Nadja Y. West became the Army's first black surgeon general, and on Feb. 9 she will be promoted to lieutenant general, the first female U.S. Military Academy graduate as well as the first African-American woman to hold that rank.


Photo: US Army John G. Martinez

West was also the first Army officer to hold a leadership role at the National Naval Medical Center, a top-tier center in Bethesda, Maryland where she served as a deputy commander.

"I was once an orphan with an uncertain future," West said of her promotion in a piece from theGrio. "And I am incredibly honored and humbled to lead such a distinguished team of dedicated professionals who are entrusted with the care of our nation's sons and daughters, veterans, and family members."

According to her biography, West deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Later, she was part of a medical mission with the 5th Special Forces Group. She has held command at two Army medical centers as well as Europe Regional Medical Command. Most recently, she was the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon.

As the Army's surgeon general, West will advise the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff on all Army health care matters, according to a press release from the Office of the Surgeon General. West will also oversee Medical Command and its 48 hospitals which serve 4 million active duty service members, retirees, and their family members.

West graduated from West Point with a degree in engineering. She later earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the George Washington University School of Medicine.