In this Sept. 13 photo, Brig. Gen. Cathy Jorgensen recites tne oath of office during a promotion ceremony on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Jorgensen, of Eagle River, became the first female to make the rank of general in Alaska Guard history. (Mike Nesper / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, ALASKA — Cathy Jorgensen received the biggest promotion of her career Sept. 13.
It was a pretty big deal for the Alaska Army National Guard, too.
Jorgensen, of Eagle River, became the first female to make the rank of general in Alaska Guard history.
“It’s a great privilege,” she said following a ceremony on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Now a brigadier general, Jorgensen is responsible for preparing each of the Guard’s 4,500 soldiers — be that to protect Alaska or to deploy worldwide.
There’s no one better suited for the job, said Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus, the Guard’s adjutant general.
“She has absolutely earned this privilege,” he said.
Jorgensen undertakes every assignment with the same gusto, Katkus said, and doesn’t stop until her goal is accomplished. Jorgensen’s hardworking attitude benefits everyone, he said.
“When you get around someone like that, it’s infectious,” Katkus said.
Coming to work every day with that outlook is easy because of her co-workers, Jorgensen said.
“We have some great people,” she said. “I love my job.”
Jorgensen received her commission in 1985 after becoming a distinguished military graduate from the reserve officer training program at the University of Alabama. While on active duty, Jorgensen served in Germany, Indiana, North Carolina, Utah and Alaska.
She left active duty in 1996 and joined the Alaska Army National Guard in 2000. Jorgensen currently serves as the Guard’s director of the joint staff and as chief of staff.
Jorgensen credited her supportive family with helping her get to where she is today.
Her husband, Brad, and father, Bill Griffin, were literally the reason Jorgensen become a one-star general. Jorgensen watched with a smile as each pinned a star on her uniform at the conclusion of Friday’s ceremony.
What sets his wife apart is her level of personal integrity, said Brad, a retired colonel who served in the Army for 24 years.
“She just wants to do things right,” he said. “She’s been a great person to spend my life with.”
Griffin, who served six and a half years in the Air Force, made the trip all the way from South Carolina.
“This is a big deal,” he said.
Jorgensen has always been driven, Griffin said.
“Cathy is probably one of the most capable people I’ve ever met,” he said. “She’s a remarkable kid.”