Celebrating Women’s History Month: Ann Dunwoody Spotlight
Ann E. Dunwoody is the first woman to earn the rank of four-star general not only in the Army, but the entire U.S. armed forces. General Dunwoody joined the Army in 1974, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Women’s Army Corps in 1975. To learn more about her exceptional career, continue reading.
Dunwoody was born in 1953 at Fort Belvoir, Virginia to Elizabeth and Harold Dunwoody. Her father was a career army officer, and the family lived in Germany and Belgium while she was growing up. She graduated from Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) American High School in 1971.
At age 5, Dunwoody decided she wanted nothing more than to become a doctor or nurse. Although she came from a family with a strong tradition of military service, she had very little interest in serving in the military. After high school Dunwoody attended State University of New York College at Cortland. During her junior year of college, Dunwoody attended a four-week Army introductory program that could be continued, if interested, with an eleven-week Women’s Officer Orientation Course, which then led to a two-year commitment. In 1975 she committed and became a 2nd lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps where she learned to jump from airplanes. It was then that she realized the army was “an organization that was as values-based as the family I came out of, and to find probably my real passion was soldiering. I just didn’t know it because I had never experienced it.”
In 1975, Dunwoody graduated from State University of New York College at Cortland with a degree in physical education—Cortland is a Top Ten school in that field—and was direct commissioned into the Women’s Army Corps. In an interview with the Military Logistics Forum, Dunwoody explained what drew her to become a soldier:
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 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.
Dunwoody’s first assignment was as a platoon leader with the 226th Maintenance Company, 100th Supply and Services Battalion, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. During her 30 years as a Quartermaster Corps officer she commanded the 226th Maintenance Company Fort Sill, Oklahoma; 5th Quartermaster Detachment (Airborne) Kaiserslautern, Germany; the 407th Supply and Service Battalion/ 782d Main Support Battalion (MSB), Fort Bragg, North Carolina; the 10th Mountain Division Support Command (DISCOM), Fort Drum, New York; the 1st Corps Support Command (1st COSCOM), Fort Bragg, North Carolina; the Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC)/Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC), Alexandria, Virginia; and the Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM), Fort Lee, Virginia.
Dunwoody’s major staff assignments include service as the Parachute Officer, 82nd Airborne Division; strategic planner for the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA); Executive Officer to the Director, Defense Logistics Agency; and Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics G-4.
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 2001, As the 1st Corps Support Command Commander she deployed the Logistics Task Force in support of Operation Enduring Freedom 1 and stood up the Joint Logistics Command in Uzbekistan in support of Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF)-180. As Commander of Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (SDDC), she supported the largest deployment and redeployment of United States forces since World War II.
Her most impactful assignment was as commander of the Army Materiel Command (AMC), one of the largest commands in the Army, employing more than 69,000 employees across all 50 states and 145 countries.
She became the first female battalion commander for the 82nd Airborne Division in 1992, the first female general at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2000 and in 2008, became the first female to be promoted to four-star general.
After 38 years of service, General Dunwoody retired in 2012. At her retirement ceremony she spoke about her passion for the U.S. Army, how grateful she was for her journey, and how difficult leaving the military was going to be for her.
She also remarked that,
“Over the last 38 years I have had the opportunity to witness women Soldiers jump out of airplanes, hike 10 miles, lead men and women, even under the toughest circumstances,” she said. “And over the last 11 years I’ve had the honor to serve with many of the 250,000 women who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan on battlefields where there are no clear lines, battlefields where every man and woman had to be a rifleman first. And today, women are in combat, that is just a reality. Thousands of women have been decorated for valor and 146 have given their lives. Today, what was once a band of brothers has truly become a band of brothers and sisters.”-Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody
To learn more about General Ann Dunwoody, purchase her book, “A Higher Standard”, from the ASOMF Museum Store!