Brazilian Air Force Promotes First Woman to General Officer Rank

Brazilian Air Force Promotes First Woman to General Officer Rank

By Taciana Moury/Diálogo
January 19, 2021

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Doctor Carla Lyrio Martins is the first woman to rise to the rank of general officer in the Brazilian Air Force (FAB, in Portuguese). She was promoted to brigadier general on November 25, 2020. Born in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brig. Gen. Carla Lyrio is married with two children, and is the current director of the Central Aeronautic Hospital, in Rio de Janeiro, specializing in Aerospace Medicine, Hematology, and Hemotherapy. She was also a pioneer in commanding an FAB military organization. The newest FAB general officer talked to Diálogo about her professional career and the challenges of her new position.

Diálogo: What did it mean to rise to the rank of general officer?

FAB Brigadier General Carla Lyrio Martins: Great joy and the materialization of a journey of hard work and challenges overcome. It also represents the trust that the Air Force High Command has in me, consolidating my nomination and the opportunity to honor the history of pioneers who joined the FAB in 1982, when positions for female officers and noncommissioned officers were created. These women paved the way for my arrival.

Diálogo: How did you start with the FAB?

Brig. Gen. Carla Lyrio: I joined the Air Force in 1990, when I participated in a nationwide competition where, for the first time in the history of the Force, both women and men had equal opportunities to join the teams of military doctors, pharmacists, and dentists.

Diálogo: What main challenges did you face in your professional career?

Brig. Gen. Carla Lyrio: The one with the most impact was becoming the director of the [FAB geriatrics home] Casa Gerontológica de Aeronáutica Brigadeiro Eduardo Gomes (CGABEG) in 2015. I have always been technical and involved in the medical field, which includes the time I was chief of the Hematology Department and later of the Medical Department of the Galeão Air Force Hospital, a very complex hospital where even administrative activities were focused on providing medical assistance. I must admit that when I received this new mission, I questioned whether I would succeed. However, I learned and saw that there is more to know and to discover. The experience was positive, provided the nature of the health organization under my care, since working with elderly people is always a life lesson. I consider it a milestone both professionally and personally.

After completing the first command cycle, I took the Advanced Studies in Politics and Strategy Course of the [Brazilian] War College in 2018. The following year, in 2019, I assumed the position of deputy director of the Subdirectorate of Resources for Medical and Hospital Assistance, at the Health Department, which broadened my management vision. In April 2020, I was nominated director of a large hospital, the Central Aeronautic Hospital, a very complex mission.

Diálogo: Can you talk about the experience of being the first woman leading a FAB military organization in 2015? What changed for military women in the FAB since then?

Brig. Gen. Carla Lyrio: Commanding CGABEG was challenging, marked by a lot of study and support. Today, many women in the health sector occupy positions within the command, board, and leadership, and these roles are increasing. For instance, women occupy the main positions at my hospital, such as: the board, the deputy director, the chiefs of the Medical Department, the Subsidiary Activities Department, the Dental Department, and the many medical, surgery, support and advisory clinics. I believe that this scenario reflects a natural evolution of society. The spaces are open and can be occupied by those who are prepared, demonstrate responsibility, and have compatible skills.

Diálogo: Do you believe that your rise to the general officer rank will motivate other women to join military life?

Brig. Gen. Carla Lyrio: I think that I could serve as an example and a role model to inspire women who aim for a profession that requires dedication, while offering opportunities for professional growth. A profession that through merit, competency, and dedication yields real results, and the pursuit for higher positions of great relevance, while participating in a wide range of decision-making processes and accomplishing professional goals.

Diálogo: What message would you like to send military women who are currently active in the armed forces?

Brig. Gen. Carla Lyrio: I would like to tell the women who wish to join the FAB to come! It is a fruitful and fulfilling path filled with opportunities and motivation. The opportunities exist, the requirements have been established, and it all depends on our willingness. We may achieve exactly what we want and qualify for it.