Oklahoma Army National Guard promotes first female general officer

Brig. Gen. Louis W. Wilham, assistant adjutant general for Oklahoma, re-affirms the oath of office to newly promoted Brig. Gen. Cynthia K. Tinkham during her promotion ceremony at the Oklahoma State Capitol. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Kendall James)

OKLAHOMA CITY – Cynthia Tinkham just made Oklahoma history.

On Wednesday, Tinkham became the first female general officer of the Oklahoma Army National Guard.

“In our organization they can look around and see a female role model in just about every career field, and they can see a female leader at every rank… so that’s huge,” Tinkham said. “This is a significant milestone. Not for me personally, but for our organization and those who will follow me.”

Tinkham joined the Oklahoma Army National Guard in 1989 after she visited a recruiter’s office with a friend.

“In 1989, the motto for the Army was, ‘Be all you can be,’ and I love that motto, I think that really attracted me to the Army,” Tinkham said. “But at the time for females, it was, ‘be all you can be, but you can’t be this and you can’t be that, and oh yeah, you can’t be that either.'”

In the 30 years since, the military has changed drastically for service women.

“The only thing I would say is that if I was joining today verses 1989, I might have done something differently just because I would have had the opportunity that I didn’t have back then, like be a Blackhawk pilot or F-16 pilot or combat medic,” Tinkham continued. “Those things I didn’t think about doing because I couldn’t back then.”

Tinkham was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1991 before becoming the only female colonel in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.

“We are usually, often times throughout our career, either the first female in some position or role, or we are the only female in that position or role, and a lot of times for a very long time,” Tinkham said. “It can be lonely because you feel different. You’re looked at like you’re some exotic creature. I know we still encounter gender biases, and it’s not conscious all the time.”

Tinkham says that even though she has faced challenges, she encourages all female service members to push forward and accomplish their dreams.

“Don’t be hesitant, and don’t apologize for wanting to pursue opportunities that maybe some people think aren’t traditional for women to pursue in the military,” Tinkham added. “I think you just have to have confidence in yourself and know that there are a lot of people out there to support you. Just be strong and always know you own abilities and what you can do.”

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.