The first woman to head a major U.S. intelligence agency assumed her post on Monday as director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or NGA.  

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my distinct pleasure to introduce the director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Ms. Letitia A. Long.

Letitia Long took over as the fifth chief of the NGA at a ceremony at the agency's new compound, which is under construction in Virginia.  

Officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, praised Long, who now heads of one of the 16 main U.S. intelligence agencies.

"Tish Long is the right choice to pick up the reins to lead this dynamic and critical intelligence agency during a time of change and transition," said Robert Gates. "And I might add, she'll be the first woman ever to lead a major U.S. intelligence agency."

That was a historic feat that Long did not acknowledge herself in her speech.  Instead, she spoke of the honor she felt to serve the intelligence community.  She thanked some of her former bosses and mentors by name, with only one woman making that list of nine people.

"Ms. Joan Dempsey, who brought me into the joint intelligence community and has given me much sound advice over the years," said Letitia Long. "Thanks, Joan."

Long heads the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which collects and analyzes satellite and airborne imagery, and provides map-based intelligence for military, national security and humanitarian efforts.  

The NGA was founded in 2003.  Previously, it was known as the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, which was established in 1996.  

Secretary Gates commended the NGA for playing a critical role in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as for providing an operating picture in Haiti following January's earthquake there, tracking the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and monitoring the ash cloud over Europe from this year's volcanic eruption in Iceland.   

Long also offered praise to the men and women she will lead.  

"In my almost 32 years in the [intelligence] community, I have never seen an agency as young as NGA do so much in so little time," she said.

Long previously served as the deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, deputy director of naval intelligence, and as a coordinator of intelligence community activities for the director of central intelligence.