U.S. Army intelligence officer Patricia Jones Frost has jumped out of airplanes as a paratrooper and had a hand in Operation Desert Storm. She’s been deployed around the world, to Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines. Frost RC’87 also commanded the 125th Military Intelligence Battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Along the way, including studying at the United States Army War College and serving at the Pentagon, she attained the rank of brigadier general— a lofty peak shared by few women.

So what’s the proper way to address her? “You can call me ‘general,’ ‘brigadier general’ … or ‘ma’am,’” she says.  “I answer to all three.”

You could say Frost’s blood runs Army green. Her father, brother, and husband are graduates of the United States Military Academy. Her father, the late Lincoln Jones III, was a major general. Her brother, Peter Jones, and her husband, Malcolm Frost, whom she met at the Pentagon, are both brigadier generals. As a result, her brother and she represent the Army’s first brother-sister brigadier generals, and Frost and her husband were informed that they are the only brigadier general spouses with children still at home.

That explains the last line of her résumé: member of Working Moms of America. It appears on her LinkedIn page under her official work title: deputy commanding general for operations, U.S. Army Cyber Command. “Working Moms of America is a name I made up to show I take the role of mother very seriously—as seriously as I do all my other roles,” she explains. Her daughter Alexis is 10, “and she’ll tell you she’s the real general in the family!”

Growing up in a military household, Frost felt no pressure to join the Army, but she was undoubtedly influenced by her parents’ example. For one, “my dad talked a lot about principles and emphasized service,” she says. “He’d say, ‘Make your profession something that’s bigger than you are.’ By that he meant service to others, whether it’s mission work or practicing medicine.”

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When she enrolled at Rutgers, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do; joining the Army was not part of her grand plan. Late in her first year, though, she wandered over to the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (AROTC) office on College Avenue at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “I felt a bit out of place at Rutgers,” she says. “My family was conservative, and Rutgers was anything but conservative. There were student protests and I wasn’t used to that. Where I came from, you did what the commander-in-chief told you to do. I missed that culture.” When the Rutgers AROTC commander saw her transcript, he offered her a full scholarship.

AROTC gave her things she wanted: training, drills, and leadership development. “I was interested in national security, and you didn’t find that in the mainstream at Rutgers,” she says. “Also, I wanted to be challenged physically. As an AROTC cadet, I got to go to jump school for paratrooper training.” 

She majored in political science and minored in Italian. A semester spent in Italy gave her a taste of life in a foreign nation. “Rutgers AROTC trained me so well that when I graduated and did the Army’s summer training, I scored in the top percent and was able to select my first assignment. I chose Europe and was sent to Germany. At the time, the Berlin Wall was up. I was at the wall when it fell.”

Since then, it’s been a steady rise to the top of her field: military intelligence. “There are multifunctional intelligence disciplines: human, counter, signals, spatial, and others,” she says. “I’m ‘all source’: I have broad expertise across the spectrum. I like the synthesis of all these disciplines. I’ve done this at every level, from company command to battalion level.”

She says that going into the Army as a young woman right out of college was a fabulous experience, allowing her to grow and learn. And she’s met every challenge head on. Shortly after her daughter was born, Frost was sent to Operation Enduring Freedom in the Philippines, part of the U.S. effort to combat terrorism worldwide. When she and her husband were sent to Iraq, from 2006 to 2008, Alexis stayed with her parents in Texas. “I had my child later in life, and she certainly keeps me grounded,” she says, grateful that her parents could chip in. “I understand the stresses other soldiers have. It’s so hard to find that balance.”

As a woman in the military, she says she’s experienced moments of discrimination. “But they have been few and far between,” she says. “I’ve worked with progressive male leaders who treated me as a soldier and an equal. And one thing I love about the Army is that they always give you a challenge.”

Her challenge now is her new assignment with Army Cyber. “Our role is to protect all information, our networks, and our security,” says Frost. “I don’t have a background in computers and technology, so there’s a learning curve. Fortunately, I work with a team that has high-level computer expertise.”

The position requires her to be based in Virginia, which poses another challenge: separation from her husband. Last March, he was named deputy commanding general for the 82nd Airborne Division, requiring him to be in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. “He spends two or three weekends a month with us. It’s hard being separated. We say to each other: ‘One day at a time.’”

It’s a life she wouldn’t change, though. “I tell people I’m a military officer, mother, spouse, and daughter,” she says. “If my daughter wants to go into the military, I’d encourage her. She says she won’t, but I tell her, ‘I said that, too, when I was 10!’” •