By: Henry Howard
The theme for this month’s Veterans Day parade in New York City is “Women in Service.” Retired Gen. Ann Dunwoody, the U.S. military’s first female four-star general, will serve as grand marshal of the nation’s largest Veterans Day parade on Nov. 11.
Before retiring, Dunwoody ran the Army’s largest global logistics command, comprising 69,000 military and civilians in all 50 states and more than 140 countries. She managed a budget of $60 billion and oversaw $70 billion in service contracts.
Today Dunwoody is president of First 2 Four, LLC, a leadership mentoring and strategic advisory services company. The American Legion Magazine recently spoke with Dunwoody.
Why did you choose to make a career in the military?
Even though I come from four generations of West Pointers, the thought of joining the Army never crossed my mind.
I loved sports and from a very early age knew I wanted to be a coach and physical education teacher. During my junior year in college, I was offered an opportunity to participate in a program that was focused on bringing more women into the Army. If you were accepted, they paid you $500 per month during your senior year and offered you a commission upon graduation, with a two-year commitment. This was too good to turn down. Once I entered the Army, I was surprised to find how much I loved being a soldier and how much I loved leading soldiers. I remember telling my dad that I was going to stay in as long as I enjoyed it and as long as I could make a difference. Two years turned into five years, 10 years, 20 years … until my retirement after 38 years of service.
What would you tell young women who are considering serving?
I would tell them that what I witnessed over my 38 years of service is that the door of opportunities continued to open and continues to do so. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would command a battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division, and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be a four-star general. My niece, an Air Force Academy graduate and now a major, is an A-10 pilot who has been deployed to Afghanistan and flown combat missions. The bench is very deep and talented.
Is the military doing enough to recruit top female candidates?
I think the armed forces does a pretty good job of recruiting women and provides an outstanding opportunity for all who are qualified to serve. Sometimes we tend to focus on quantity vs. quality. Diversity really is a strength, and we should be on the lookout for the very best talent out there.
What does it mean to you to be honored as grand marshal?
There are so many heroic and distinguished veterans who would have been wonderful representatives of our nation’s veterans, and the fact that I was chosen to do so is extremely humbling.
American Legion, Auxiliary and SAL members are encouraged to participate in the Nov. 11 parade. Those interested in marching with the Legion Family delegation should email firstname.lastname@example.org. Details will be posted online at www.americanlegion.com/_/Parade.html. The parade will air live in 10 major Fox TV markets nationwide.