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Adjutant Gen. Ashenhurst First Woman To Lead Ohio National Guard
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In 2010, Governor – Elect John Kasich made Ohio history by naming Deborah Ashenhurst as the first woman adjutant general.
In the National Guard â€œadjutantâ€ means the highest ranking officer. Deborah Ashenhurst assumed the duties of adjutant general on January 10th, 2011 â€“ the day Governor John Kasich was sworn into office. Kasichâ€™s choice was historic â€“ Ashenhurst was the first woman to head the Ohio National Guard.
â€œIâ€™m the fifth nationwide but Iâ€™m the first for the state of Ohio and what a tremendous honor,â€ says Ashenhurst.
Ashenhurst joined the National Guard in 1978. Several years later, she asked her father for career advice.
â€œThis had been an almost lifetime goal of mine,â€ Ashenhurst says. â€œWhen I was a lieutenant, and my father is a career National Guard officer, I talked about what the future opportunities were and he said, â€˜Deb, thereâ€™s no reason that you canâ€™t become the assistant adjutant general.â€™ I donâ€™t think that as a woman he ever imaged that I would have the opportunity to become the adjutant general. So I took the tough assignments, pursued opportunities to get a good base of experience so that if the opportunity every presented itself, I would be ready at least.â€
As a member of John Kasichâ€™s cabinet, she reports directly to the governor to assist in times of emergency â€“ after a natural disaster for example. But she also commands more than 15,000 Ohio National Guard soldiers and airmen â€“ about 1200 of whom are involved in military actions overseas.
â€œSo of late, unfortunately, weâ€™ve been very busy along that track also with sending individuals and units off to support our nationâ€™s interests in foreign countries,â€ Ashenhurst says.
There have, of course, been losses. Those deaths, Ashenhurst says, she takes personally.
â€œThus far in my career the hardest thing Iâ€™ve had to do was escort our fallen heroes home from Afghanistan. Just pure timing or the hand of God that I was over there when the incident happened and was able to negotiate through the bureaucratic nonsense to escort our fallen heroes home,â€ Ashenhurst says.
Her domestic duties also include playing a part in homeland security. The Ohio Air National Guardâ€“ with its air defense artillery and F-16 fighters â€“ is also under command.
Ashenhurst has done all of her graduate studies at the Army War College. Much of the rest of her education was obtained here in the Columbus area.
â€œI am truly a humble Ohioan. I started my high school and years below right here in central Ohio â€“ part of it in Springfield, Ohio. Then I started college at Ohio State University. Found this wonderful man, fell in love, took off for Europe for a few years, continued my undergraduate work there, and did some college work there that offered some college credit back in the â€˜80s, then came back, did a lot of work at Franklin University, then pulled all those things together for my degree from the University of New York,â€ Ashenhurst says.
Major General Ashenhurst now works to keep balance between the personal and professional parts of her life.
â€œFrom the moment I got this job I wanted to show that we can do a great job, we can be great soldiers and airmen; but that we also have a commitment to our family and our community and that you have to find a way to balance that. And Iâ€™m actually known to put grandchildren time on my calendar and block that time so that the folks who are scheduling my days canâ€™t keep me from keeping that balance in my life,â€ she says.
One of the things that helps, she says, is running.
â€œRunning is how I maintain my sanity and thatâ€™s where I do most of my private thinking and can solve about any problem while Iâ€™m out running,â€ Ashenhurst says.
In closing, Major General Ashenhurst offers this advice:
â€œDonâ€™t be afraid to follow your dreams. Donâ€™t ever think that youâ€™re too old to try something new or get a new start or take advantage of an opportunity. You canâ€™t be so risk-averse that youâ€™re going to miss the great things in life,â€ Ashenhurst says.