First black Army three-star was once an orphan with “uncertain future”

Lt. Gen. Nadja West will become the first African-American woman to achieve the rank of three-star General in the US Army. (U.S. Army)

The highest ranking woman of any race to have graduated from West Point will soon be honored in a ceremony to make her promotion to three-star general official.

This Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Nadja West will become the first African-American woman to achieve that rank in the U.S. Army. As of December 2015, West has been serving as the 44th US Army Surgeon General. It was with that confirmation by the Senate that she was promoted to three-star general.

The 54-year-old LTG will be assisting and advising the Secretary of the Army and Army Chief of Staff with “all health care matters” in addition to “overseeing development, organization, policy direction, and other matters relative to the Army-wide health care systems.”

West attended the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, DC, where she earned a Doctorate of Medicine Degree. The D.C. native also holds a BS in Engineering from West Point.

As an intern and resident at Ft. Benning, GA, West deployed with the 197th Infantry Brigade, 24th Infantry Division during Operation Desert Shield. She also served as the Chief of  Dermatology Service at Heidelberg Army Hospital in Germany. West later went on to serve as the Commanding General, Europe Regional Medical Command.

In her most recent assignment as the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon– she served as the chief medical advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, coordinating on all issues related to Health Services– including operational medicine, force health protection, and readiness within the US military.

According to, West said of her recent promotion and new responsibilities: “I was once an orphan with an uncertain future…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.”

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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