Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Brigadier General Allyson R. Solomon
MSA SC 3520-15136

Biography:

Brigadier General Allyson R. Solomon repeatedly shattered the “glass ceiling” for women and African Americans in the Maryland Air National Guard. Since enlisting over thirty years ago, General Solomon has been a “first” for many positions in the Maryland Air National Guard, including the first female Colonel, the first female and African American Brigadier General, and the first female and African American Assistant Adjutant General, the highest position, in the Maryland Air National Guard.1 General Solomon’s excellent leadership skills and character shine through her commendable positions and awards in the Air National Guard along with volunteer work she does outside of her career.

General Solomon was born in Trinidad and Tobago on January 23, 1961.2 General Solomon’s parents immigrated to the United States, and Solomon later joined them in Baltimore, Maryland in 1971.3, 4 General Solomon’s mother was a successful seamstress in Trinidad and Tobago and found work in Baltimore County soon after emigrating from the islands. General Solomon’s father was a police officer in Trinidad and Tobago and became a Maryland Transit Administration bus driver after the move.5 Moving to a new country at only ten years old caused many changes for General Solomon. She quickly moved from an apartment to a house in Baltimore and started attending a new school. After having many cousins in Trinidad and Tobago that were close to her age, Solomon had to adjust socially to a new environment without her old friends and extended family. It was then that the close bond between Solomon and her immediate family grew, “we relied on each other for support then and now. That made the difference,” General Solomon recalled.6 Aside from establishing a firm relationship with her family, the move also allowed General Solomon to solidify her own personality. "It gave me a sense of knowing who I was because it was important for me to understand what was important to me…That's carried me through the rest of my career and life quite frankly,” she stated in an interview with ABC News.7

After graduating from the Institute of Notre Dame, a private, Catholic, high school in Baltimore, General Solomon was unsure of what to do with her life.8 A family friend encouraged General Solomon to enlist in the Air National Guard. The physical and mental challenge of the Maryland Air National Guard appealed to General Solomon.9 This, along with her family’s tradition of serving their country in the police force, motivated General Solomon to serve her country and she enlisted after graduation in 1979.10 Notably, General Solomon enlisted only five years after women were allowed to serve in the Air National Guard, making her choice all the more impressive.11 Initially, General Solomon thought that the Air National Guard would be a temporary career; maybe she would be an airman for three years then transition to civilian life. But she was continuously offered new opportunities and challenges that she could not turn down. General Solomon served as an enlisted airman while attending Loyola College, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Management in 1986.12

Seven years after enlisting in the Maryland Air National Guard, General Solomon was selected to attend the Air National Guard Academy of Military Science.13 Similar to Officer Candidate School in other military branches, the Air National Guard Academy of Military Science is a training school for individuals to become officers in the Air National Guard. She graduated from the Academy and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on November 6, 1986.14 Even as an officer, General Solomon was not sure she wanted to make a career out of the Air National Guard. She originally thought she would stay until she became a Major, and then retire to civilian life, but instead she stayed in the Air National Guard long enough to become a General and top commander of the Maryland forces.15

General Solomon began her career as an officer in the Maryland Air National Guard as the Administrative Officer of the 135th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at the Warfield Air National Guard Base in Baltimore, Maryland. She was promoted to First Lieutenant on January 7, 1989. Then in 1991, she was promoted to Captain and became Social Actions Officer for the headquarters of the Maryland Air National Guard, also in Baltimore, Maryland. She was promoted to Major on January 26, 1995. In concurrence with her in-residence attendance of Air Command and Staff College, General Solomon received her Master of Arts degree in Public Administration from Auburn University in 1997.16 That same year, she was assigned as Commander of Mission Support Flight back at the Warfield Air National Guard Base. Solomon was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on August 31, 1999 and became Executive Support Staff Officer back at the headquarters of Maryland Air National Guard in 2000. During her time as Executive Support Staff Officer, General Solomon was able to complete Air War College through correspondence in 2001. On January 30, 2003, Solomon became the first woman and first woman of color to become Colonel in the Maryland Air National Guard. With this promotion, she became Commander of the Mission Support Group at Warfield Air National Guard Base, where she oversaw over 585 personnel. Then in 2006, she was promoted to Chief of General Officer Management for the entire National Guard at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia. As Chief, Solomon oversaw management of the careers and training of every general officer in all states and territories of the United States.17, 18

General Solomon earned the highest position in the Maryland Air National Guard in 2008, when she was promoted to Brigadier General and became the Assistant Adjutant General for the Maryland Air National Guard.19 This promotion made General Solomon the first female and first African American to lead the Maryland Air National Guard as Assistant Adjutant General; it also made her the first female and African American to obtain the rank of Brigadier General in the Maryland Air National Guard.20 As Assistant Adjutant General, Brigadier General Solomon commands the entire Maryland Air National Guard, with the primary mission of responding to emergencies in the United States, like natural disasters, and providing military support during wartime.21 In this role, Solomon oversees over 1600 personnel and also serves as Special Assistant to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.22

General Solomon’s promotion, as a historical first for women and African Americans, earned media attention, but General Solomon always places her job and role before sensationalizing her success. While remarking at her promotion ceremony, General Solomon put the event in perspective saying, “Today is not just about me. It is about those who look like me: women and African-Americans. I am humbled by the significance of this occasion. And for that I express my gratitude to those who went before me.”23 General Solomon recognized the importance of her promotion for those minorities before and after her, but she also acknowledged the importance of putting the “mission first” stating, “At the end of the day, that's what you have to be able to do is to do the job regardless of what you look like.”24 She re-emphasized this belief in an interview with media from her birth country of Trinidad and Tobago saying, “Leading the Maryland Air National Guard and the challenges that go along with that are my focus. I do look forward to the day when we no longer need to count [the “firsts” for minorities in the military].”25

General Solomon’s career accomplishments in the military are very admirable, but her endeavors do not end there. As a truly well rounded officer, General Solomon finds time out of her demanding schedule to perform volunteer work. General Solomon has stayed active in her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. With her local sorority chapter, General Solomon helped organize events and volunteering with charities that work with women in financial crisis, like the House of Ruth and the Young Women’s Christian Association.26 She is also on the board of advisors for the Free Education Africa Committee, an organization that works to improve education in Africa.27 She also volunteers on several committees in the Maryland National Guard Association, a non-profit group that advocates for increased readiness for the state through sustaining the Maryland National Guard.28 When Baltimore was chosen to host the 130th National Guard Association of the United States General Conference, General Solomon worked diligently with other National Guardsmen to organize the conference, which successfully showcased Baltimore’s beauty and diversity to thousands of military leaders, corporate representatives, and elected officials.29

General Solomon also makes a point to serve as an example and role model for others. While being interviewed for the Virtual Presence Post of the United States for Trinidad and Tobago, General Solomon encouraged the youth of her birth country, telling them that anything is possible with hard work and that it is important to respect themselves and others.30 On Citizenship Day, she and another General visited Public School 34 in Brooklyn, New York, where she emphasized strong community service and a widespread sense of citizenship, which allows Brooklyn, with its large immigrant population, to thrive. Alicja Winnicki, principal of the school, praised General Solomon saying, "Seeing two African-American generals makes this community of immigrants and working class Americans believe in the greatness of a country where it is possible to succeed."31 In a time where so many successful people deny their responsibility as role models, General Solomon embraces this position and works hard to influence others in a positive way.

General Solomon’s work has earned her praise from both the military and civilian sectors. Service medals awarded to General Solomon include, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Air Force Achievement Medal, the Joint Meritorious Achievement Award, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (with 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), the Air Force Organizational Excellence Award, the Air Reserve Forces Meritorious Service Medal (with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), the National Defense Service Medal (with 1 Bronze Service Star), the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Air Force Longevity (with 1 Silver Oak Leaf Cluster), the Armed Forces Reserve Medal (with Silver Hour Glass), the Air Force Noncommissioned Officer Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon, the Air Force Training Ribbon (with 1 Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster), the State of Maryland Distinguished Service Cross, the State of Maryland Meritorious Service Medal, the State of Maryland Commendation Medal, and the State of Maryland Service Medal (with 4 Bronze Bottony Crosses).32 As a resident of Anne Arundel County, General Solomon received an Executive citation from County Executive Janet Owens during the fifth annual salute-to-women ceremony, which was themed "exemplary women of the military.”33 She was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame in March of 2009.34 General Solomon has received praise from governors to other generals for her “exemplary service, dedication to her State and Nation, and contribution to the community.”35When she is not busy working or volunteering, General Solomon enjoys playing golf, listening to jazz music, and reading.36

As a young immigrant, General Allyson Solomon worked her way toward success in the Maryland Air National Guard, making her way from airman to general in less than thirty years. Her accomplishments are all the more impressive because she is the first woman and African American to earn the rank of General and become Assistant Adjutant General of the Maryland National Guard. As a “first” for minorities in the military, General Solomon serves as an example and inspiration for all, as someone who believes that hard work overcomes adversities.
 

Endnotes:

1. “Biography: BRIGADIER GENERAL ALLYSON R. SOLOMON.” National Guard Bureau. July 2008. http://www.ngb.army.mil/ngbgomo/library/bio/1877.htm Return to text.
2. Brig. Gen. James Adkins, “2009 Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame Nomination Form.” Maryland Commission for Women, 2008. Return to Text.
3. Josh Mitchell, “Air Guard Leader Making History; Solomon 1st woman, 1st black to hold job.” The Baltimore Sun, June 13, 2008 Return to text.
4. “Interview with Brigadier General Allyson Solomon.” United States Virtual Presence Post Tobago. http://tobago.usvpp.gov/interview.html Return to text.
5. Mitchell, “Air Guard Leader Making History; Solomon 1st woman, 1st black to hold job.” Return to text.
6. “Interview with Brigadier General Allyson Solomon.” United States Virtual Presence Post Tobago. Return to text.
7. Working Women: Allyson Solomon, video. ABC 7 News. August 29, 2008. http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0808/548609.html Return to text.
8. George Matysek, “Catholic high schools celebrate Class of 2009.” The Catholic Review, Spring 2009. http://www.catholicreview.org/subpages/PaperSpecSection.aspx?action=6359 Return to text.
9. Brian Sprowl, “First Black woman makes Brigadier General rank.” The District Chronicles, August 10, 2008. http://media.www.districtchronicles.com/media/storage/paper263/news/2008/08/10/Politics/First.Black.Woman.Makes.Brigadier.General.Rank-3398210-page2.shtml Return to text.
10. “Brigadier General Allyson Solomon '79 speaks at Class of 2009 Graduation,” The Onyx, Institute of Notre Dame, Summer 2009. Return to text.
11. Brig. Gen. Adkins, “2009 Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame Nomination Form.” Return to text.
12. Ibid. Return to text.
13. Ibid. Return to text.
14. Ibid. Return to text.
15. Dorothy Rowley, “The 3-minute interview: Brig. Gen. Allyson Solomon. The Examiner, Jul 14, 2008. http://www.examiner.com/a-1486214~The_3_minute_interview__Brig__Gen__Allyson_Solomon.html Return to text.
16. Brig. Gen. Adkins, “2009 Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame Nomination Form.” Return to text.
17. Ibid. Return to text.
18. “Biography: BRIGADIER GENERAL ALLYSON R. SOLOMON.” National Guard Bureau. Return to text.
19. Brig. Gen. Adkins, “2009 Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame Nomination Form.” Return to text.
20. Sprowl, “First Black woman makes Brigadier General rank.” Return to text.
21. Working Women: Allyson Solomon, video. ABC 7 News. August 29, 2008. http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0808/548609.html Return to text.
22. Brig. Gen. Adkins, “2009 Nomination Form.” Return to text.
23. Gigi Barnett, “Md. Air Nat. Guard Led By African-American Woman.” WJZ News, June 13, 2008.  http://wjz.com/local/air.national.guard.2.747484.html Return to text.
24. Ibid. Return to text.
25. “Interview with Brigadier General Allyson Solomon.” United States Virtual Presence Post Tobago. Return to text.
26. Johnson, Thomas. “2009 Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame Nomination Form.” Maryland Commission for Women, 2008. Return to text.
27. “Board of Advisors.” Free Education Africa, Inc. http://www.freeeducationafrica.org/COMMITTEE.html Return to text.
28. Thomas Johnson, “2009 Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame Nomination Form.” Return to text.
29. Ibid. Return to text.
30. “Interview with Brigadier General Allyson Solomon.” United States Virtual Presence Post Tobago. Return to text.
31. Capt. Geoff Buteau, “Generals re-enforce 'Citizenship Day' with core values.” U.S. Air Force News, February 13, 2009. http://www.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123135573 Return to text.
32. “Biography: BRIGADIER GENERAL ALLYSON R. SOLOMON.” National Guard Bureau. Return to text.
33. “Anne Arundel Honors and Awards.” The Washington Post, May 15, 2003. Return to text.
34. “Brig. Gen. Allyson R. Solomon.” Maryland Commission for Women. Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame, 12 March 2009. http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/educ/exhibits/womenshall/html/solomon.html Return to text.
35. Brig. Gen. Adkins, “2009 Nomination Form.” Return to text.
36. Sprowl, “First Black woman makes Brigadier General rank.” Return to text.
 
 

Biography written by 2009 summer intern Stephanie Berger.
 
 

Return to Brig. Gen. Allyson R. Solomon's Introductory Page
 
 
 
 


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