By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The Army yesterday promoted the first woman ever to attain the rank of four-star general in the U.S. military, Gen. Ann Dunwoody, a long-awaited step that senior officers described as breaking a "brass ceiling."
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates recognized Dunwoody at a Pentagon ceremony as "a soldier and leader of the highest caliber" who has served in the Army for 33 years, much of it in positions of command.
Dunwoody also took the helm yesterday of the Army Materiel Command at Fort Belvoir, one of the Army's largest organizations with nearly 130,000 personnel in about 150 locations. Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Army chief of staff, hailed her as "one of our premier logisticians."
Pinned with her fourth star on her dress-blue uniform in a room packed with senior Pentagon and military leaders, Dunwoody said she was humbled by the honor and gave credit to a family upbringing that encouraged hard work and the unconstrained pursuit of goals.
"I never . . . even heard of the word 'glass ceilings,' " she said at a Pentagon news conference later. "It was always . . . the glass was always half-full. You could always be anything you wanted to be."
Still, when asked whether the Army should open more combat roles to women, she said she had no personal view on the issue. "We have a law that precludes [those roles] right now, and we are in compliance with that law. If that law needs to be revisited, I think we have a deliberate process to do that," she said.
Dunwoody, who was born into a military family and says she has "olive-drab blood," joined the Army as a second lieutenant in 1975. "They paid me $500 a month during my senior year in college and they sent me to airborne school. I couldn't believe they were going to pay me to jump out of airplanes," she said.
"Even though I thought I was only coming to the Army for two years, I now know from the day I first donned my uniform, soldiering is all I ever wanted to do."