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Rhonda Cornum Edit Profile

Urologist , career military officer

Rhonda Cornum, American career military officer, urologist. Decorated Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Prisoner Of War Medal; named an The 50 Politicos to Watch, Politico, 2010. Fellow: Aerospace Medical Association, American College Surgeons.


Cornum, Rhonda was born on October 31, 1954 in Dayton, Ohio, United States.


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. After her training in biochemstry, she attended the national military medical school.


She retired in 2012 as a U.S. Army Brigadier General the Director of Comprehensive Soldier Fitness in the Army Staff G-3/5/7 division. 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 before working in the joint soldier fitness program.

Brigadier General Cornum retired on 31 January 2012. At the U.S. Army Aviation Center, Cornum 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.

Persian Gulf War 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. 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. After regaining consciousness, she said her first thought was "Nobody’s ever died from pain." Cornum was captured, made a prisoner of war (POW), and sexually assaulted by one of her Iraqi captors.

In addition, she was subjected, with other prisoners, to a mock execution. 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 (), with Peter Copeland.

In an interview with the New York Times, she said the sexual 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 Major 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.


  • Cornum's decorations include the Army Distinguished Service Medal, 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. She is one of only seven women in history to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross.


Fellow: Aerospace Medical Association, American College Surgeons.


Married Kory Cornum, 1983. 1 child Regan.

Kory Cornum

Regan Cornum