Honoring Women's History Month- Rhonda Cornum

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Lauren Patton
  • 92nd Medical Group
Character, courage, commitment--all terms that retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Rhonda Cornum exhibited throughout her career in the military and in her life in general.

During the Persian Gulf War, then Major Cornum, was an Army flight surgeon with the 229th Attack Helicopter Regiment. She and seven others were aboard a Black Hawk helicopter on a search and rescue mission for a downed F-16 pilot. During this mission, the helicopter was shot down and she was one of three on board that survived the crash. She suffered two broken arms, a broken finger, a gunshot wound in the back and many other wounds. This is not even close to where her story ends.

She was also captured by Iraqi forces and was a prisoner of war in Iraqi custody for eight days. During those eight days, she suffered physical, mental and emotional distress. She took on the responsibility of the ranking individual. With all her injuries she maintained her character, courage and commitment to her fellow POW's by continuing to encourage and maintain optimism throughout their capture.

Retired Brigadier General Cornum did not let her experience as a POW end her career in the military; instead, she allowed this experience to motivate her. After she was repatriated, she attended Air Command and Staff College and began training in urologic surgery. She also continued the research that she began before the Gulf War.
Brig. Gen. Cornum was assigned as the staff urologist at Eisenhower Army Medical Center and later took command of the 28th Combat Support hospital at Fort Bragg, N.C. She deployed as the Medical Task Force Commander to Bosnia. After this tour, she attended the National War College and was assigned to command Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany.

She later became the U.S. Army Forces Command Surgeon and also served as the U.S. Army's Assistant Surgeon General for Force Projection. Throughout her military career, Brigadier General Cornum earned many awards and decorations. She is one of only seven women in history to have received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Retired Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum was a true advocate for women in the military. She believed that there is no reason to have gender specific job criteria in the military. She is quoted as saying, "The things that are important, such as courage, integrity, loyalty, luck and determination, those things are not distributed on your chromosomes."