Air Force Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost will become the first woman to lead U.S. Transportation Command after receiving Senate confirmation Oct. 1, and if she has her way, many more will be coming up behind her.
Van Ovost was nominated for the position earlier this year. On Oct. 15, she will become the second female airman to lead a combatant command — an opportunity she credits with the Air Force’s efforts to break down career barriers for women in its ranks.
“After being in the service for over 30 years, I am proud to watch the Air Force reduce the friction points so women especially can have a more fulfilling career and they don’t feel like they’re making a trade,” Van Ovost said. “I’ve been focused in my career to look for things in policy to make things better from a quality-of-life standpoint and within the service.”
Standing beside her in support is her husband, Alan Frosch. He himself enlisted in 1970 and was a technician in Thailand during the Vietnam War. He spent 21 years in the Air Force as a C-141A/B flight engineer before retiring in 1991. Though they’d met earlier in Van Ovost’s Air Force career, it would be the water that brought them together.
“He was getting out and I met him while he was still on active duty. I remember he was at a desk in the back of the airplane with this brochure out. He was talking about sailboat chartering and was taking all the tests to become a captain,” she explained.
Van Ovost left to respond to Desert Shield and Desert Storm but when she came back, she had some much-earned time off and found herself in Charleston, South Carolina.
“I remembered there was somebody who had a boat in the harbor,” she said with a smile.
After finding a charting company, she discovered it was Frosch running it all.
“When I heard she was a pilot instructor I said, ‘I’ll teach you how to sail if you teach me how to fly,’ and she said OK,” Frosch said.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Van Ovost credits female trailblazers who led the way for her and others. A 1988 graduate of the Air Force Academy, she was barred from flying fighter jets and was assigned to cargo planes instead. In 1993, the Pentagon lifted the ban and she was quick to take the test pilot assignment.
Frosch was frank in admitting going from veteran airman to the role of military spouse was challenging. Especially when Van Ovost received orders as a test pilot in the middle of the desert, which meant his sailboat captain career was ending.
“I’ve had about eight careers since then and most spouses do that,” he said.
Not only did he learn to fly and create new opportunities, Frosch found a space as an advocate for spouses and families.
While awaiting Senate confirmation for her nomination, Van Ovost has been in charge of Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. At the time she took command, she was the Armed Forces’ only female four-star general. It’s a mission she is especially proud of, she said.
So, what does life look like for a four-star general? It’s pretty boring, both admitted. They treasure time with family and Frosch’s daughters from a previous relationship.
“We share a lot together and do things together. We’ve even gone on mission trips together because a big thing we have in common is our faith … It just bonds us,” he explained.
The couple does a lot of work with foster children specifically and are passionate about increasing STEM opportunities for all youth.
When Van Ovost is home, you’ll often find them walking base trails and enjoying the quiet moments together, Frosch said.
It’s also where he discusses the needs and concerns of Air Force families, which are often unspoken or shared with Van Ovost due to her command role.
“The important thing is that team work really does make the dream work,” she added.
Van Ovost was quick to acknowledge the challenges of balancing such a demanding position and maintaining a fulfilling career, but was adamant how a committed partnership in a relationship is what makes it all work for her. Her advice for other women looking to advance their careers while having a family was simple.
“It’s never 50/50; my life, it’s a combination of personal and professional every single day,” she said. “But the biggest thing to remember is to be completely in the moment when they do need you.”