ARMY'S DUNWOODY BECOMES FIRST FEMALE FOUR-STAR GENERAL
WASHINGTON " Call it breaking the brass ceiling. Ann E. Dunwoody, after 33 years in the Army, ascended Friday to a peak never before reached by a woman in the U.S. military: four-star general.
At an emotional promotion ceremony, Dunwoody looked back on her years in uniform, said it was a credit to the Army " and a great surprise to her " that she would make history in a male-dominated military.
"Thirty-three years after I took the oath as a second lieutenant, I have to tell you this is not exactly how I envisioned my life unfolding," she told a standing-room-only auditorium. "Even as a young kid, all I ever wanted to do was teach physical education and raise a family.
"It was clear to me that my Army experience was just going to be a two-year detour en route to my fitness profession," she added. "So when asked, `Ann, did you ever think you were going to be a general officer, to say nothing about a four-star?' I say, `Not in my wildest dreams.'
"There is no one more surprised than I " except, of course, my husband. You know what they say, `Behind every successful woman there is an astonished man.' "
Dunwoody hails from a family of military men dating back to the 1800s. Her father, 89-year-old Hal Dunwoody " a decorated veteran of World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam " was in the audience, along with the service chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, plus the Joint Chiefs chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen.
Dunwoody, whose husband, Craig Brotchie, served for 26 years in the Air Force, choked up at times during a speech in which she said she only recently realized how much her accomplishment means to others.
"This promotion has taken me back in time like no other event in my entire life," she said. "And I didn't appreciate the enormity of the events until tidal waves of cards, letters, and e-mails started coming my way.
"And I've heard from men and women, from every branch of service, from every region of our country, and every corner of the world. I've heard from moms and dads who see this promotion as a beacon of home for their own daughters and after affirmation that anything is possible through hard work and commitment.
"And I've heard from women veterans of all wars, many who just wanted to say congratulations; some who just wanted to say thanks; and still other who just wanted to say they were so happy this day had finally come."
Later Friday, at Fort Belvoir, Va. " her birthplace " Dunwoody was being sworn in as commander of the Army Materiel Command, responsible for equipping, outfitting and arming all soldiers. Just five months ago, she became the first female deputy commander there.
Dunwoody, 55, has made it clear that she feels no need for special acclaim for her historic achievement.
"The recognition makes her a little bit uncomfortable from the standpoint of the gender aspect " that we're making a big deal (that) she is the first female general officer," Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said Thursday in announcing that Defense Secretary Robert Gates would attend her promotion ceremony.
When she was nominated by President George W. Bush in June for promotion to four-star rank, Dunwoody issued a statement saying she was humbled.
"I grew up in a family that didn't know what glass ceilings were," she said. "This nomination only reaffirms what I have known to be true about the military throughout my career " that the doors continue to open for men and women in uniform."
Her nomination was confirmed by the Senate in July.
There are 21 female general officers in the Army " all but four at the one-star rank of brigadier. It was not until 1970 that the Army had its first one-star: Anna Mae Hays, chief of the Army Nurse Corps.
Women now make up about 14 percent of the active-duty Army and are allowed to serve in a wide variety of assignments. They are still excluded from units designed primarily to engage in direct combat, such as infantry and tank units, but their opportunities have expanded over the past two decades.
Dunwoody received her Army commission after graduating from the State University of New York in 1975.
Her first assignment was to Fort Sill, as supply platoon leader in June 1976, and she remained at Sill in various positions until she was sent to quartermaster officer school at Fort Lee, Va., in July 1980.
She later served in Germany and Saudi Arabia.
After graduating from the Command and General Staff College in 1987, she was assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C., where she became the 82nd Airborne Division's first female battalion commander.
She has numerous decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal and Defense Superior Service Medal.