Unsung Heros

Ann Dunwoody

General Ann E. Dunwoody is the first woman promoted to the rank of four-star general in the military. She joined the Army in 1973 as a second lieutenant and retired in 2012 after commanding the United States Army Material Command.

QUESTION: Your family has a long history of service.
GENERAL DUNWOODY: Well I was an Army brat and in my family we had four generations of West Pointers. So it was my brother, who was class of ’70 and my father and his dad and his granddad. So as you can imagine, as kids, we probably laughed saying we were borne with OD, olive drab, blood coming up with such a family that’s so steeped in our Army and military traditions. Then my older sister also joined the military. She got a commission back then and was the third female helicopter pilot. So I was surrounded from the day I was born, being an Army brat and a daughter of a Soldier and the rest of my life being a Soldier. Now I didn’t ever really think I was going to join the Army. Even with a family that’s so steeped in Army tradition did I ever even have a thought about coming to the Army. I was a tomboy since I was probably 5. I don’t know if they use that word tomboy anymore; but, people do sports and love sports. I always knew that I was going to be a physical education teacher and a coach. And I spent most of my life working toward that end. We moved around a lot, as you can imagine, as Army brats. I enjoyed being an Army brat. I loved moving around. I’m the middle of a family of five. So I had a great big family, good Catholic family. And my brothers and sisters made growing up fun and I had the best mom and dad and role models that any kid could ever ask for. By the time I got to high school, my father was assigned to SHAPE Headquarters, as the deputy, he’s a onestar general. So I spent my entire high school in Belgium and again, cheerleading, tennis, sports, traveling around Europe, like we used to travel around the United States. Following that assignment my father got orders to go to Vietnam. He was a three-war veteran. So, right out of West Point he went to World War II, then the Korean War and then Vietnam. He was a hero to me since a youngster and so was my mom. And he got orders to Vietnam. I knew going to college that I had two criteria, I wanted to go to one of the top ten physical education schools and I wanted to be close to my mom who was going home to her hometown. And I ended up at Cortland State, in New York, SUNY, which fit the bill to the tee. It was one of the top ten physical education schools and I was about a hundred and fifty miles away from my mom. So that was the start of my journey. In college I continued on with sports. I did gymnastics and tennis. I had wonderful coaches, wonderful friends, and in my mind, I was living my grand plan that I had since I was young. And during my junior year in college, my older sister, who is right now in the military, informed me of a program the Army was initiating to try and get women into the Army. In the program you would, for four weeks, between your junior and senior year, kind of get a taste of the wax and military, women in the Army. And if you were accepted and applied, then you became part of this program where they paid you $500 a month during your senior year in college, which was a lot of money back then. You graduated with a commission as a second lieutenant with a two-year commitment. And that was a very tough decision for me, because I was going to be a physical education major and I was going to be a coach. But I thought about it and I said, well you know, I could really use the money, five hundred bucks. And only two-years, I could stand on my head for two-years. So this will be a little detour en route to my coaching and physical education career; and here I am, almost 38 years later, still in the Army.

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