When Redstone Arsenal became the new headquarters of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, Huntsville also became home to one of only 11 four-star generals in the U.S. Army, AMC commanding Gen. Ann Dunwoody, who also just happens to be the first and only woman ever to obtain the four-star rank in the Army. Or that’s how she views her role, according to colleagues.
“She likes to say ‘I’m a war fighter first who just happens to be a woman, ’” says Nancy Small, director of the office of Small Business Programs for the AMC.
The AMC is responsible for materiel readiness—technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection and sustainment, which means, according to the Army literature: “If a soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.” It is one of the largest Army commands, with more than 70, 000 employees and a presence in all 50 states and 155 countries.
The AMC headquarters was moved from Virginia to Redstone as part of the 2005 BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure Commission) decisions. Most of the move was completed this summer.
Gen. Dunwoody now has a home in Huntsville with her husband, retired Air Force Col. Craig Brotchie. But she’s more often working around the globe, making sure soldiers have what they need—everything they need. So information about her has to be gleaned from people who have met or worked with her, Army bios and other media reports, few of which include an interview.
If Dunwoody wasn’t born to be a soldier, the calling is probably in her DNA. Background information shows her family history of military service extends five generations. Her great-grandfather, Brigadier Gen. Henry Harrison Chase Dunwoody, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1876. Her grandfather and father and brother were also West Point graduates. Her father, Harold Dunwoody, retired from the U.S. Army as a Brigadier General and was a highly decorated veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He was in attendance when she got her fourth star, in November 2008. Her older sister, Susan Schoeck, was the third woman in the Army to become a helicopter pilot, and her niece, Jennifer Schoeck, is a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot.
Dunwoody was commissioned as a quartermaster officer after graduating from the State University of New York at Cortland, where she was a standout in tennis and gymnastics. The NCAA this year honored Dunwoody with its highest award, the Theodore Roosevelt Award—an annual award that singles out a “distinguished citizen of national reputation and outstanding accomplishment.”
During her career, she has served in Southwest Asia, Germany and throughout the United States. Her principal staff assignments include service as the 82nd Airborne Division parachute officer, where she deployed to Desert Shield and Desert Storm; strategic planner for the chief of staff of the Army and deputy chief of staff for logistics (Army G-4), headquarters, and she has commanded at every level.
As a senior leader, she commanded the 10th Division support command at Fort Drum, N.Y.; the 1st Corps support command at Fort Bragg, N.C.; the military traffic management command/military surface deployment and distribution command in Alexandria, Va., and the combined arms support command at Fort Lee, Va. She holds a master of science degree in logistics management from the Florida Institute of Technology and a master of science degree in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle says that it is a great achievement for the Redstone Arsenal community and the city to have the AMC and someone of Gen. Dunwoody’s rank there, and the general has made earnest efforts to be involved in the community—when she’s in town.
“She loves to work in the community when she has time, ” Battle says, including the annual community Armed Forces celebration day. “She came and ate barbecue with us, sat and listened to the Army Materiel band and stayed through the complete event and was just very personable, ” Battle says. She also showed a character trait that great leaders are often noted as having, he says: When you talk to her she is totally focused on you and what you are saying, which creates a heart-felt connection to that person at that moment. “What was fascinating was that the workers from Redstone Arsenal who wanted to meet her: Each person she met, she treated like they were special guests out there. She went out of her way to meet people and is just a wonderful addition to the community.”
While at her job in Huntsville, Small says, “Gen. Dunwoody’s number one focus, and all of our number one focus, is the war fighter. She believes in that with her heart and soul, and that is the reason AMC is here, is to support the war fighter.”
Though Huntsville can and should take pride in the AMC being there, it is a global operations center, Small reminds people frequently, as does Gen. Dunwoody, Small says. Gen. Dunwoody’s job is to make sure the people within the AMC have what they need to operate as a command, Small says, and she does what she has to do to make sure that happens. “She reaches from the four-star level and above to assure that we have the right resources to perform our job.”
Tara Hulen is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Birmingham.
By Tara Hulen