Studies in Command-2: Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody
Last June 30, on my daily travels through the Internet, a story smacked me in the nose: “Commanding Role for Women in the Military,” was the headline of Rachel L. Swarns’ New York Times article. The lede:
WASHINGTON - For more than a decade, Lt. General Ann E. Dunwoody has delighted in leaping through the doors of military planes and plunging into the night with a parachute on her back.
A master parachutist and a former battalion commander, Gen. Dunwoody handled logistics for the 82nd Airborne Division in Saudi Arabia during the first gulf war. As a three-star general, she has flown to Afghanistan and Iraq to ensure the steady flow of ammunition, tanks and fuel to the troops.
But one of the biggest joys of her 33-year military career has been jumping out of airplanes and into roles previously unimaginable to generations of women in the Army. Last week, President Bush asked General Dunwoody to take over a new Army command as a four-star general. If confirmed by the Senate, she will become the first woman in the armed services to achieve that rank.
“A woman four-star general,” I thought. “WOW!”
I was a two-year draftee in 1958-1960. I thought the Army was great.
I think it’s even better now that it has its first woman four-star general.
The Army in 1958
Fifty years ago, old traditions ran deep. When I was in the Army:
- No officer in uniform was allowed to be seen pushing a baby carriage.
- Officers in uniform were not allowed to carry an open umbrella in the rain.
- When an Army base-wide event was scheduled, invitations to all were worded, “The Officers and Their Ladies and The Non-Commissioned Officers and Wives Are Invited ...”
- Women in the Army were known as WACs (Women’s Army Corps) or WAACs (Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps). Their counterparts were Navy WAVES (“Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service”), and the United States Marine Corps Women's Reserve (USMCWR). In World War II, the British had the WAAFs—Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. Women were not real soldiers, sailors or marines. They were “auxiliary” or “reserves”—secretaries, stenos, gophers, nurses, assistants and aides.
The idea that a woman could become a general—let alone a four-star general—was unthinkable. The first female American general officer was Anna Mae Hays, chief of the Army Nurse Corps, appointed in 1970. Currently, 21 women general officers serve in the Army, of whom 17 hold the rank of brigadier or one-star.