AUSTIN, Texas — The new adjutant general for the Texas Military Department took over from Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols on Jan. 1 and will publicly take command during a change-of-command ceremony at Camp Mabry in Austin on Saturday.
And she is already making waves for being the first female to hold the state’s highest military position.
But for Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, her gender is really not much of an issue.
As in all things military, those nominated to the highest positions are chosen because of their skills and talent — not gender, race or any other factor.
“Being the first female doesn’t really resonate as much with me because I have two chiefs of staff who are women, both of whom commanded battalions in combat,” she said during an interview at Camp Mabry in Austin on Monday. “With 50 percent of our recruiting population being women, I would think you’re going to start seeing more and more women coming up through the ranks and taking jobs like this.”
Norris, a combat veteran with two tours in Iraq, credits this to the fact that more opportunities have continually been made available to women in the military since the 1980s. She started her career in the Army National Guard in 1986, when jobs were beginning to open for women.
“What happened back in the ’80s and early ’90s — the people who stayed with the military (since then), you’re starting to see those people coming to the higher positions,” she said. “So, I think it’s about opportunities.”
Norris now leads 24,000 soldiers and airmen with the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and the Texas State Guard, the three components of the Texas Military Department. Her experience includes leading a battalion during a combat deployment to Iraq and serving as the chief of staff of the 36th Infantry Division during her second combat deployment. The chief of staff runs the day-to-day operations for the commanding general.
She most recently served as the deputy adjutant general in command of the state’s Army National Guard.
Norris said she never thought she’d still be in uniform nearly 33 years after first accepting a National Guard ROTC scholarship at Florida State University.
“I was going to do my six years and get out,” she said, referring to a six-year service requirement for having the military pay for her college education. “What happened was I kept getting new opportunities; I was like, ‘that sounds kind of neat, I’ll go try that.’”
Fort Hood has been a large part of her career while serving in Texas, she said, having conducted annual training requirements at the post often and going through the demobilization process — the paperwork and exams required of deployed Guardsmen and reservists when returning from a deployment — at the “Great Place.”
“Fort Hood works with us very well to make the demobilization process easier. We really appreciate that,” Norris said. “Talking strictly on the Army side, 36th ID has a great relationship with the 1st (Cavalry Division), and they have for a long time.
“Also, III Corps … I would say III Corps considers the 36th ID as one of their divisions,” she joked. “The 36th ID has worked with III Corps for a long time.”