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Rhonda Cornum
File:20091118 Cornum image.jpg
Born October 31, 1954(1954-10-31) (age 66)
Place of birth Dayton, Ohio, U.S.
Allegiance United States
Service/branch U.S. Army
Years of service 1978-2012
Rank US-O7 insignia Brigadier General (BG)
Battles/wars Persian Gulf War (POW)
Awards Legion of Merit (3)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal

Rhonda Cornum (born October 31, 1954) is a former United States Army soldier and the Director of Health Strategy for TechWerks.[1] She is a surgeon, board-certified in urology, having graduated from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, first having earned a doctorate in biochemistry and nutrition from Cornell University. She recently retired as a U.S. Army Brigadier General the Director of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness in the Army Staff G-3/5/7 division.[2]

She commanded the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, was president of her class at the National War College, and then became the command surgeon for United States Army Forces Command. As a brigadier general, she was U.S. Army Assistant Surgeon General for Force Protection, and then moved to the joint soldier fitness program. Brigadier General Cornum retired on 31 January 2012.


After her training in biochemistry, she attended the national military medical school. During her studies, she met her future husband, Kory Cornum, who would have a parallel military career, becoming a U.S. Air Force brigadier general.

At the Army Aviation Center, she both researched and worked as a flight surgeon at the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence. Her interests were focused on the human factors of flight.[3]

Persian Gulf WarEdit

As a flight surgeon with the 229th Attack Helicopter Regiment, then-Major Cornum was aboard a Black Hawk helicopter on a search and rescue mission, looking for a downed F-16 pilot, during the Persian Gulf War.[4] When the helicopter was shot down on February 27, 1991, she suffered two broken arms, a broken finger, a gunshot wound in the back, and other injuries.[4]

After regaining consciousness, she said her first thought was "Nobody’s ever died from pain."[5]

Prisoner of warEdit

Cornum was captured, made a prisoner of war (POW), and sexually assaulted by one of her Iraqi captors.[6] In addition, she was subjected, with other prisoners, to a mock execution.[5] Nevertheless, when she was the senior-ranking prisoner, she took responsibility for other POWs.

She later co-wrote a book about her experiences, She Went to War: the Rhonda Cornum Story (ISBN 0891415076), with Peter Copeland.

In an interview with the New York Times, she said the assault "ranks as unpleasant; that's all it ranks....everyone's made such a big deal about this indecent assault, but the only thing that makes it indecent is that it was nonconsensual. I asked myself, 'Is it going to prevent me from getting out of here? Is there a risk of death attached to it? Is it permanently disabling? Is it permanently disfiguring? Lastly, is it excruciating?' If it doesn't fit one of those five categories, then it isn't important." She continued, "there's a phenomenal amount of focus on this for the women but not for the men," citing that the "mistreatment of [fellow POW] Maj. Jeffrey S. Tice of the Air Force, who had a tooth explode from its socket when he was tortured with jolts of electricity."

She testified about this to the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Services. Initially, she did not mention this abuse, at the request of her chain of command, when first repatriated. She gave additional detail in her book.

Awards and decorationsEdit

Cornum's decorations include the Army Distinguished Service Medal,[7] Legion of Merit (with two oak leaf clusters), Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (with four oak leaf clusters), Purple Heart, Air Medal, and Prisoner of War Medal.[2] She is one of only seven women in history to received the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Senior Flight Surgeon Badge USA
US Army Airborne basic parachutist badge
Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg
Distinguished Flying Cross ribbon.svg
Bronze Star ribbon.svg Purple Heart BAR.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Meritorious Service ribbon.svg
Air Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Army Commendation Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Bronze oakleaf-3d
Army Achievement Medal ribbon.svg
Prisoner of War ribbon.svg
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze star
Bronze star
Southwest Asia Service ribbon.svg
Global War on Terrorism Service ribbon.svg Army Service Ribbon.svg
NATO Medal Yugoslavia ribbon bar.svg Us sa-kwlib rib.png Us kw-kwlib rib.png
1st Badge Expert Field Medical Badge
2nd Badge Senior Flight Surgeon Badge
3rd Badge Parachutist Badge
4th Badge Air Assault Badge
1st Row Army Distinguished Service Medal Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters Distinguished Flying Cross
2nd Row Bronze Star Medal Purple Heart Meritorious Service Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters
3rd Row Air Medal Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster Achievement Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters
4th Row Prisoner of War Medal National Defense Service Medal with service star Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
5th Row Southwest Asia Service Medal with two campaign stars Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Army Service Ribbon
6th Row NATO Medal Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) Kuwait Liberation Medal (Kuwait)


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