Ann Dunwoody First Woman Four-Star General

General Ann Dunwoody Photo Ann Dunwoody has been nominated for a fourth star, making her the first woman to achieve that rank in American history.

“This is an historic occasion for the Department of Defense and I am proud to nominate Lt. Gen. Ann Dunwoody for a fourth star,” said Defense Secretary Robert Gates. “Her 33 years of service, highlighted by extraordinary leadership and devotion to duty, make her exceptionally qualified for this senior position.”


The Army Material Command handles all material readiness for the Army. During her career, Dunwoody has been assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division and the Defense Logistics Agency. She served with the 82nd Airborne in Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Honestly, I didn’t know that AMC was a four-star command. Indeed, while that’s a huge task, it strikes me as odd that it is; it’s part of an overall trend toward rank inflation in the armed forces. Neither George Washington nor Jack Pershing ever wore a fourth star.

Regardless, this is a historic appointment. CNN’s rundown of firsts shows how amazingly recent all of them are:

The first woman to become a general officer in the U.S. armed services was Brig. Gen. Anna Mae Hays, chief of the Army Nurse Corps, who achieved the rank in 1970 and retired the following year. Elizabeth Hoisington, the director of the Women’s Army Corps, was promoted to brigadier general immediately after Hays. She also retired the following year. Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm, the first director of Women in the Air Force, was the first woman to wear two stars, attaining the rank in 1973 and retiring two years later. In 1996, Marine Lt. Gen. Carol A. Mutter became the first woman to wear three stars. Mutter retired in 1999.

Currently, there are 57 active-duty women serving as generals or admirals, five of whom are lieutenant generals or vice admirals, the Navy’s three-star rank, according to the Pentagon.

Truly remarkable.

Photo: Military Logistics Forum

UPDATE: An emailer points out that AMC “has been a four star position since shortly after its creation in 1962, when it was first commanded by LTG Frank Besson, who was promoted to General in 1964. It has been commanded by a four-star general since that time. I believe that among the major commands of the US Army, only three have more personnel than AMC–Forces Command, Training and Doctrine Command, and US Army Europe.”

I’m sure my biases on this matter were formed as an Army lieutenant twenty years ago; I’m not sure I’d ever heard of AMC. Further, my sense has always been that the “real” four-star commands were regional combatant commands like EUCOM and CENTCOM that oversee operational forces. It always struck me as overkill to have a four-star in charge of office workers.

FILED UNDER: Gender Issues, Military Affairs, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jmo says:
  2. James Joyner says:

    Hopper is one of the great, unheralded pioneers of computer science. I had the privilege of hearing then-Commodore Hopper speak as a plebe almost 25 years ago.

    Dunwoody has been tremendously successful, though, in a much more traditional military path.

  3. brainy435 says:

    So based on past indicators it seems a pretty good guess to say she will retire in 4 years.

  4. Floyd says:

    Tugboat Annie would be sooooo proud!!