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Terry Scherling

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On this date in 1998, the Bismarck Tribune announced that Colonel Terry Scherling of Bismarck was now the highest ranking woman in the Air National Guard. She was promoted to Chief Support Officer for the Air National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C. She was only 43 years old, making her one of the youngest colonels in the country. Just the year before, Scherling had become the first female United States Property and Fiscal Officer. By the time of her retirement, she had risen to the rank of Major General.

Terry Scherling is from Davenport, North Dakota, and she graduated from Kindred High School. Her father had also served as a Major General in the North Dakota Air National Guard.

Terry joined the 119th Wing, also known as the Happy Hooligans, in 1975. Two years later she graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in physical education. She had only planned on serving in the guard for three years, but ended up serving for 33. Along the way, she received a master’s degree in national resource management from the Industrial College of Armed Forces in Washington, D.C.

On September 11, 2001, Scherling was in the Pentagon when the 9-11 attack occurred. After getting out safely, she stood with a nervous crowd when a fighter jet flew overhead. Scherling recognized the Happy Hooligans marking and reassured the other evacuees, yelling that it was “one of ours,” prompting the crowd to break into applause.

The following year, Scherling was promoted to brigadier general, making her and her father the first father-daughter generals in all of the U.S. Army or Air National Guard.

Scherling’s career continued upward. In 2003 she was assigned to a newly created position for antiterrorism and homeland defense. She ended her military career as the Special Assistant to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, retiring in 2009. During her illustrious career she earned many honors and awards, such as an honorary doctorate from NDSU in 2008. That year she founded a company called Tenica, which provides government services and consulting.

Speaking of her career and the many firsts, Scherling said: “While I’m proud to be the first, I’d rather be known for my capability. My hope is that my progress opens the door for other women to advance.”

Dakota Datebook by Trista Raezer-Stursa

Author Unknown, “In Defense of the White House: A Minute-By-Minute Account of the Hooligans’ Sept. 11 Actions,” The Fargo Forum, October 28, 2001 accessed June 13, 2022.
Author Unknown, “Inspiring North Dakotans: Scherling Leads Terrorism Fight,” The Fargo Forum, accessed June 13, 2022.
Author Unknown, “Retiring Military General Enjoyed High-Flying Career,” Grand Forks Herald, January 18, 2009 Accessed June 13, 2022.
Author Unknown, “Scherling First Woman in Position,” The Bismarck Tribune, July 13, 1997.
DeVine, Terry, “Family Produces 2 Generals,” The Fargo Forum, November 29, 2002 accessed June 13, 2022.
Donahue, Kathleen, “Guard Colonel a Pacesetter for Women,” The Bismarck Tribune, July 12, 1998.
Donahue, Kathleen, “New Job for Guard Veteran,” The Bismarck Tribune, July 8, 1998.
North Dakota State University Commencement Program, winter 2008, pg. 5. accessed June 13, 2022.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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