“Once confirmed, they will become the second and third women in the history of the United States armed forces to lead combatant commands,” Biden said at the event, where he was joined by Richardson and Van Ovost, as well as Vice President Harris and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
“Each of these women have led careers demonstrating incomparable skill, integrity and duty to country, and at every step, they’ve also helped push open the doors of opportunity to women in our military, blazing the trail a little wider, a little brighter for all proud women following in their path and looking to their example,” Biden added.
According to the New York Times, Pentagon leaders held back the nominations of Van Ovost and Richardson until after the November presidential election for fear that then-President Donald Trump would reject them because they are women.
“They were chosen because they were the best officers for the jobs, and I didn’t want their promotions derailed because someone in the Trump White House saw that I recommended them or thought DOD was playing politics,” former defense secretary Mark T. Esper told the New York Times last month. “This was not the case. They were the best qualified. We were doing the right thing.”
Van Ovost is the commander of Air Mobility Command, while Richardson is commanding general of U.S. Army North. If the Senate confirms their nominations, Van Ovost and Richardson would join retired Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, the former commander of U.S. Northern Command from 2016 to 2018. Robinson was the first woman to serve as a combatant commander since their establishment in 1986.