NATO HQ Sarajevo Welcomes A New Commander: Stand Back, It’s a Woman.

In May 2015, a Native of Richardton, North Dakota Made History.

Giselle “Gigi” Wilz became the first female brigadier general in the North Dakota Army National Guard. Since 1983, Wilz had been breaking the gender barrier within the Army National Guard, reaching the level of colonel in 2008. Wilz comes from a military family, her brother Greg Wilz is a retired Guard major and her father Charles Wilz was a colonel. During her promotion ceremony she stated:

 

I’d like to inspire both men and women. From the women’s side, if you take advantage of opportunities that come before you and work hard, you can be anything you want to be.

 

Well, Gigi, You’ve Made History Again.

On June 10, 2015, Wilz became the first female commander and Senior Military Representative of the NATO HQ Sarajevo. She will command NATO Forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as advise the government authorities in matters related to defence reform and NATO membership.

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At a time when NATO is focused on defence reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Wilz will find herself balancing building a more independent-unified defence system within the country, that has taken more than 10 years to develop, alongside NATO ambition and collective security aspirations. Between 2004 and 2006 the NATO-led Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme implemented in the country had been effective and arguably contributed to its stabilization.

Since 2006 however, the success of the PfP has been scrutinized, as stability in the country has waivered due to continuous ethnic divisions. In 2010, Bosnia and Herzegovina enacted a Membership Action Plan alongside NATO in order to complete the necessary requirements to join the Alliance.

U.S. Army Brig. Gen Giselle Wilz will undoubtedly etch her name in history not only because of her position, but also because of her contribution to defence reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Perhaps, the country will become a full-fledged NATO member under her guidance. Perhaps.

NATO HQ Sarajevo makes history with first female commander

Thank you NATO for seeing the value in another strong female leader.

About Victoria Heath

Victoria is a former Program Editor for Women in Security at the NATO Association of Canada. She graduated from Virginia Tech in 2013 with a BA, honours degree in History and Political Science with a focus on the Middle East and women's rights. She was a member of AmeriCorps from 2013-2014 working at Great Oaks Charter School in Newark, NJ as a tutor and advisor for high-risk students. Her interests in security, women's rights and defense issues originate from her family's background in the U.S. military and growing up abroad in the Middle East. She has done previous research in U.S. Foreign Policy and Congressional affairs at Project Vote Smart, as well as research in women's health and refugee issues for the Lutheran World Federation in Kakuma, Kenya. She is also the creator of the Migration and Policy Coalition at the University of Toronto and the Co-Chair of the MGA Crisis Simulation 2016. She is currently pursuing her MGA at the Munk School of Global Affairs and is expected to graduate in 2016. You can connect with her @victoria_heath7 on Twitter or send her an email at victoria.heath@mail.utoronto.ca