Growing up in a military family, Ann Dunwoody dreamed of becoming a Physical Education teacher and raising a large family. It never occurred to her that her short stint in the Army after college would lead her to become one of the first woman three star Generals and the first woman four star General in US history. She felt uncomfortable with the emphasis placed on the ‘first female’ side of her appointment. She also told an internal Army publication, "While I may be the first, I know I won't be the last."
In an interview with the Military Logistics Forum, Dunwoody stated, "I grew up in the Army and came from a family who, since 1862, has defended our nation. My great grandfather, my grandfather, my father, my brother, my sister, my niece and my husband are all veterans of this country’s wars. My father is a veteran of three wars and is one of the 25 million veterans living today who served the nation with such incredible courage.
While I joined the Army right out of college, I planned to only stay in the Army to complete my two-year commitment, but it wasn’t too long before I realized that there are no other shoes [boots] I would rather fill then the ones I am wearing right now. As a soldier you can continually serve. It is a calling to be a soldier and there is a great sense of pride and camaraderie in serving the greatest Army in the world."
So, what happened to her dreams of teaching PE and raising a large family? Dunwoody has earned three medals which would be the envy of most PE teachers:
Parachutist Badge (United States), Parachute Rigger Badge, and Parachutist Badge (Germany)
And as for raising a large family – she has – she is the Commanding General of the US Army Materiel Command which equips, outfits, and arms all soldiers. The AMC is the largest command in the Army. Her ‘family’ has over 61,000 employees, 133,000 personnel, and spreads over 149 locations across 30 states and 50 countries.
In 1971, Dunwoody graduated from the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe American High School in Germany where her father was stationed. Four years later, she graduated from State University of NY at Courland with a degree in PE and took a commission in the Army as quartermaster. She rose through the ranks with honor and distinction serving both stateside and in Germany, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan. As commander of the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC) in Alexandria, VA, Dunwoody supported the largest deployment and redeployment of the US forces since WWII. She has earned the following decorations and medals:
Distinguished Service Medal (Army) (one bronze oak leaf cluster)
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit (two bronze oak leaf clusters)
Defense Meritorious Service Medal (one silver oak leaf cluster)
Defense Superior Service Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal
National Defense Service Medal (one service star)
Southwest Asia Service Medal (two service stars)
Kuwait Liberation Medals (Saudi Arabia and Kuwait)
Parachutist Badges (United States and Germany)
Parachute Rigger Badge
Army Staff Identification Badge
The path to becoming a general usually includes combat service. Indeed, one cannot obtain the rank of a five star general without it. But an officer cannot be appointed five stars except during times of war or national emergency. (And the Marines have never created a rank of 5 star general). No more than 16.3% of the Army or Air Force can have more than two stars, and no more than 25% of those can have four stars. That works out to approximately 302 Army generals, 279 Air Force generals, and 80 Marine generals. These limitations can be waived by the President only when the country is at war or during a national emergency. Generals are nominated by the President and must be confirmed by a majority vote by the Senate. With exceptions, a standard tour length for a four star general is three years, followed by retirement.
General Ann Dunwoody was nominated on June 23, 2008 by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate July 23, 2008. As recorded in Wikipedia, response has been incredibly positive for her:
“I have followed her career for 33 years. Every assignment she has ever had, she’s done in an outstanding manner. So it really doesn’t surprise me she was the first woman selected for four stars.” Dunwoody's Father, retired Brigadier General Harold H. Dunwoody
"Lieutenant General Dunwoody's nomination not only underscores her significant contributions and success throughout 33 years of service, but also shows the level of possible opportunity in our Army's diverse, quality, all-volunteer force. Our nation will continue to benefit from Lieutenant General Dunwoody's leadership as the Army continues to build strength from our diversity." General George W. Casey, Chief of Staff of the Army
"Her 33 years of service, highlighted by extraordinary leadership and devotion to duty, make her exceptionally qualified for this senior position," Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense
In March 2009, Dunwoody participated with First Lady Michelle Obama in a forum for ‘promising girls’ in Washington DC public schools.
Dunwoody was born in 1953. Her generation’s greatest accomplishment for women was to raise a large family as a wife and mother. Dunwoody has done that. Her family is the Army and her role is a four-star General. Yes, she was the first, but with her outstanding leadership and as an inspirational role model, she won’t be the last.