WASHINGTON — A woman became a four-star Army general Friday, a peak never before reached by a woman in the U.S. military.
The emotional ceremony, which drew the military's highest ranked officers, sparked hopes among women that the role for female troops will continue to expand.
Anne Dunwoody, 55, who has served 33 years in the Army, said she was humbled and overwhelmed by the distinction. A member of Dunwoody's family has served in every American war since the Revolution.
Her 89-year-old father, retired Brig. Gen. Harold Dunwoody of Englewood, served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam and earned two Purple Hearts. Her niece just returned from a tour in Afghanistan as an Air Force pilot. Her brother-in-law is an Air Force veteran. All were at Friday's ceremony.
Women are not allowed to serve in ground combat, limiting their command options and roles in wartime. Instead, they have risen through the military ranks through career paths like nursing, intelligence and logistics. Dunwoody was sworn in Friday as commander of the Army Materiel Command, which equips and outfits soldiers.
Not eligible to attend the then-all-male U.S. Military Academy like her brothers, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, she graduated from the State University of New York and was commissioned into the Women's Army Corps in 1975.
At the ceremony, Dunwoody looked back on her years in uniform and 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." The Army "was just going to be a two-year detour en route" to becoming a physical education teacher and raising a family, she said.
He husband, retired Air Force Col. Craig Brotchie, choked up at times during a speech in which she said she only recently realized how much her accomplishment means to others.
The ceremony drew the military's top-ranked officers. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Gen. George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, presided, and three-star generals had to stand in the back because all the seats were taken.
As Brotchie and Casey pinned four stars on each shoulder of her uniform, female soldiers throughout the crowd cheered, some as they wiped tears of joy.