FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Women have broken many barriers throughout the Army’s history, most recently from joining the combat arms to filling its most senior-level roles.
Lt. Gen. Jody Daniels is just one example.
As the chief of Army Reserve and commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve Command, history may remember her as the first woman to lead the nearly 200,000-strong force since its inception in 1908. But the Army leader hopes to be remembered as a torchbearer for future leaders to fill the Army ranks at its highest levels, she said.
In her current roles, Daniels serves as an advisor on Reserve matters to the Army chief of staff and lawmakers as well as the leader of a community-based force of Soldiers and civilians located throughout 50 states, five U.S. territories and 23 countries.
One glance at the general’s accomplishments throughout 37 years of service outlines a leader well-suited for any challenging role. Previously, she served as the commanding general of the 88th Readiness Division headquartered at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, and Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.
Other assignments include being the chief of staff at Army Forces Command. She has also deployed overseas several times as part of other roles. As a citizen Soldier, she has even served as the director of advanced programs for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories.
From the start, Daniels has taken on missions in line with the advice she gives young Soldiers: “take on challenging jobs,” she said in a recent interview.
Since assuming command in July, life has been a whirlwind for the three-star general. “To be honest, it’s overwhelming [and] surprising,” she said. “I never thought I’d even be a general, let alone the first female chief of Army Reserve.”
Daniels has also taken command during one of the Army Reserve’s most challenging chapters, she said. Besides overseeing the component’s massive COVID-19 response, Daniels has managed other ongoing lines of effort, she said.
For example, the Army Reserve has over 12,000 Soldiers in overseas locations, she said, and recently responded to record-breaking power outages in Texas caused by freezing weather.
“There were a lot of water outages freezing pipes from all kinds of other challenges [in Texas],” she said. “Helicopter assault companies went out and delivered water to one of the local hospitals in Houston, which was without because of their infrastructure damage.”
To this day, Reserve Soldiers are deployed throughout locations helping local hospitals and communities fight the COVID-19 pandemic. “They’re out there doing monumental work,” she said.
Besides the missions, Daniels hopes to expand collective training while also following health guidelines, as well as to modernize the Reserve to prepare for multi-domain operations, retain and recruit top talent, and carry out the Army’s People Strategy, she said.
From day one on the job, the coronavirus pandemic had brought training missions to either a complete stop or a “barely moving kind of scenario,” she said. Since then, her team has worked tirelessly to get Soldiers fully trained again.
“We’re figuring out how do we protect the force, what [ensures] the least number of Soldiers exposed or carrying the disease asymptomatically across state lines, and knowing who should and shouldn’t train,” Daniels said.
“It has been a challenge, but the team has done terrifically well,” she added.
But it seems nobody breaks barriers without hitting snags along the way. The chief said she has taken them in stride, often laughing off time-worn situations she runs into, such as tongue-tied young Soldiers saluting her and saying things like, “Yes, sir… I mean, uh, ma’am,” she said, laughing.
It hasn’t always been as trivial as Soldiers tripping over their words. In the past, Daniels has deployed overseas, where her male counterparts weren’t as welcoming, she explained.
But for each unwelcoming experience, Daniels’ career has been filled tenfold with mentors.
“I’ve had mentors who helped me unknowingly, [for example,] by saying I should apply for graduate school when I hadn’t even thought of going,” she said. “They gave me the confidence to go. They also suggested I go to Army War College, because if I didn’t go, I’d never make [the rank of] general officer.”
One of her biggest supporters is her husband, retired Col. John McCarthy, who like his wife is a career-long intelligence officer. These days McCarthy is trying to use his voice as an advocate for military families.
“We’ve been married a little over eight years, and since then she’s always been on full-time orders,” he said. “I’ve always been around active-duty spouses. That, along with my 20 years of service, my adult life has been associated with the Army.”
Daniels said her family has been very supportive throughout her career. Without them, she doesn’t believe any of her accomplishments would have been possible.
In the future, Daniels hopes to lead the Reserve to be a more inclusive Army component.
“We’re looking at opportunities for everybody, and making sure that we’re hearing from everybody,” she said. “I think the Army Reserve does a pretty good job of that. We can always do better, but I think that overall we’re doing pretty well.”