“Trailblazer” is an overused description but, in Brig. Gen. Janice Garthright Igou’s case, it fits.

Now retired, Igou was the first female brigadier general in the Virginia Army National Guard, promoted to that rank in 2010. As the director of interagency operations, she provided oversight for all programs, policies and procedures regarding Defense Support to Civil Authority. She served as the lead general officer for outreach to state and local leaders, organizations and communities, as well as to officials at the National Guard Bureau, the Virginia Secretary of Public Safety, the Virginia Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.

All of which is a bit of a surprise, even to Igou.

There was nothing in the Henrico native’s formative years that would have indicated her career path. She isn’t from a military family, and she never dreamed of commanding troops.

It was at Longwood that she first came into contact with the military. Every day while en route from her residence hall to classes in Tabb, Igou had to pass through the ROTC department. Speaking with the recruiters piqued her interest, and eventually she was convinced that a military career was for her.

Igou received an ROTC scholarship, and, after graduating with a business degree from Longwood, she joined the U.S. Army and served seven years. She left active duty in 1991, returning home to the Richmond area, where she joined the Virginia National Guard. She served four years as a brigadier general before retiring in 2014.

Looking back over her career, Igou said, “Wearing the uniform, you never regret it, and it’s been a real honor to do so.”

Now, no longer in uniform, Igou resides in Montpelier, where she spends her time volunteering, gardening and teaching Sunday school at her home church.

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