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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Slovenia’s government on Tuesday appointed a female officer as the head of the armed forces, a first for the small country which is a member of NATO and the European Union.

Maj. Gen. Alenka Ermenc, 55, will formally take up her post as the Chief of the General Staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces at a ceremony on Wednesday, when she will also become the only woman to currently hold the top armed forces post among the NATO countries.

The British-educated Ermenc replaces Maj. Gen. Alan Geder after serving as his deputy. Geder took over Slovenia’s military earlier this year after his predecessor was sacked over poor results in a NATO test.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor hopes Ermenc’s appointment will help improve the performance of Slovenia’s military.

“The global trend of a deteriorating security situation continues and even though Slovenia is not directly threatened military-wise, it must improve its military safety relatively quickly,” Pahor said in a statement released by his office.

An Alpine nation of some 2 million people, Slovenia has about 7,500 soldiers, including both active and reserve troops.

Ermenc was promoted to the rank of major general last week. She has participated in the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo and holds of several army awards.

At the NATO headquarters in Brussels, a NATO official said the alliance “has long recognized the importance of women in the armed forces.”

“For NATO, equal participation contributes to more resilient societies, more effective forces, and lasting peace,” said the official, who is not permitted to speak on the record as part of their job description.

Slovenia is the home country of U.S. first lady Melania Trump.


Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.