First to Four

This week’s post is a break from the large summaries of even larger quantities of information about women and the military to focus on, one of my personal inspirations, General Ann Dunwoody. General Dunwoody is a notable figure in American history as she was the first woman in U.S. military and uniformed service history to achieve a four-star officer rank. She received her fourth star on November 14, 2008.

Dunwoody is pinned with her four stars by Army Chief of Staff General Casey and her husband Craig Brotchie.
Dunwoody is pinned with her four stars by Army Chief of Staff General Casey and her husband Craig Brotchie.

Why General Dunwoody inspires me goes beyond her military accomplishments (which on their own are remarkable), it is in her upbringing, we are both Army brats with a family history of military service. General Dunwoody’s father was a career army officer and a decorated veteran, and her childhood was spent traveling with her family from post to post. Although she came from a family with a strong tradition of military service, she had very little interest in serving in the military. In her book A Higher Standard she talks about how she wanted to be a PE teacher or a coach. Again this is something that I relate to because while I was proud of my father and family’s military service it was not something that I had dreamed of from childhood. In A Higher Standard when talking about her decision to serve General Dunwoody states, “I had hoped to add my own small footnote to our family tradition.”

“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 than 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.”

General Dunwoody joined the Army in 1974, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Women’s Army Corps in 1975. Her first assignment was as supply platoon leader, 226th Maintenance Company (Forward, Direct Support), 100th Supply and Services Battalion (Direct Support), Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Since then, she’s served at every level of command.

From May 1989 to May 1991, Dunwoody served as executive officer and later division parachute officer for the 407th Supply and Transportation Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, at Fort Bragg and deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield/Operation Desert Storm.

In addition to becoming the first woman in U.S. military history to achieve the rank of four-star general, she was the first woman to command a battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division in 1992, and she became Fort Bragg’s first female general officer in 2000. Dunwoody was also the first woman to command the Combined Arms Support Command. In 2005, Dunwoody became the Army’s top-ranking female when she received the promotion to lieutenant general (three stars) and became the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-4 (logistics).

General Dunwoody retired on August 15, 2012 after 38 years of service. Speaking at her retirement, then Chief of Staff of the Army General Ray Odierno, said that “Her true legacy and reward will be the thousands of Soldiers and civilians whose lives she has touched through the span of her career”.


You have shown pride in your units, you have challenged your subordinates, you have been loyal to your leaders, you have been a friend to your colleagues, and you have been a selfless servant to those who have been placed in your charge. You have made every unit you have been in a better unit. Your legacy is clear.” –General Odierno

Since the day that I decided I wanted to do ROTC in college and add my own footnote to my family’s tradition, I have looked up to General Dunwoody as an exemplary Army leader.

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