CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In a ceremony in the Capital City on Saturday, Col. Paige Hunter became the West Virginia National Guard’s first-ever female Brigadier general.
Hunter first joined the guard 34 years ago, when she said she never could have imagined such an honor.
“It’s humbling. Incredibly humbling. When I joined a hundred years ago I never dreamed that this would happen,” she said jokingly exaggerating how long she had served. “It’s obviously exciting and extremely humbling.”
Hunter, who grew up in Kanawha County in both Pinch and in Big Chimney, said she had bled red, white and blue her entire life and so did her family.
“I was raised in a very patriotic family. My dad retired from here after 41 years,” she explained. “My mom did not physically wear the uniform, but she wears it in her heart because she’s very patriotic, too.”
Saturday afternoon’s ceremony drew a large, supportive crowd including U.S. Senator Joe Manchin.
Hunter fell in love with the service life from the beginning, when she went to a military camp the first year they admitted women.
“I was in the first class at the youth leadership up at Camp Dawson that allowed girls,” she recalled. “That’s a camp for high school students to get a little taste of military life. Back in 1978 was the first year they allowed girls and I attended. I just loved being a part of something bigger and something important.”
Hunter said she had loved being a part of the military “from day one,” and she “believes in what we do.” She explained what that meant to her.
“Protecting the nation; ensuring our freedom, our principals, our beliefs; our way of life,” she said. “Supporting the citizens of West Virginia. In the National Guard we are unique in the services in that we have a dual role. We have a national role and we have a state role.”
Hunter is the sixth Brigadier General overall currently in the West Virginia Air and Army National Guards. She said her role wouldn’t change all that much; just her title.
“I will just be doing the same thing. Supporting our troops, our soldiers and airmen, just with a different rank on.”
Hunter resides currently with her husband, Rick, in Clendenin.
Hunter is also a veteran of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.