By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (March 06, 2009) -- Diversity is one of the strengths of the Army, and as an organization, it is one of the best at leveraging that diversity, said the service's first four-star female general.
"Your Army considers diversity a strength -- and we proudly lead the nation in offering equal opportunity to all," said Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody commander, U.S. Army Materiel Command. "Our Army is nourished and energized by the diversity of the men and women in our formations. And women today are contributing at every level and on every battlefield."
Dunwoody spoke March 6 at a lunch for female Reserve Officer Training Corps and U.S. Military Academy cadets at the U.S. Capitol Visitor's Center in Washington, D.C. She was introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works.
The lunch followed discussion panels involving sexual assault and opportunities for women in the Army. The three events were held in recognition of Women's History Month.
Dunwoody told the gathered cadets that "diversity" is more than having different kinds of people - it also means having different perspectives.
"It is not only having some of each, but is (about) having the voices of each heard at the table," she said. "This is the true value of diversity. The best solutions and the best decisions will be made because we will have leveraged the strength and power that diversity brings to the entire team. More than ever before, we need to understand the complexities of the problems we face. The consequences of not doing that are far too great."
Dunwoody made history when on Nov. 14 she became the first woman in the U.S. military to attain the rank of four-star general. The general told the cadets at the lunch to remember the female officers that came before them who pushed through the ranks to achieve notable "firsts" for women in the military.
Such notable women across the Department of Defense include: Brig. Gen. Anna Mae Hays, the first in DOD to enter the general officer ranks; Air Force Maj. Gen. Jeanne M. Holm, the first to earn a second star; Vice Adm. Patricia A. Tracey, the first to earn a third star; and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Carol A. Mutter, the first to be nominated for a third star.
"As we celebrate Women's History Month, we must not forget those who have gone before us," Dunwoody told the cadets. "But let's also recognize that we know the current and future leaders sitting here in this room will continue to build on our proud legacy -- a legacy earned by our pioneers -- women who knew no fear, and by women who risked everything they had to serve their country."
The general told the room of cadets that she had faith in their ability to succeed individually and to bring talent to the Army. She also told them their time in service, as Army officers, would be a challenge worth meeting.
"You are the next generation of our military leaders and I have no doubt you'll bring incredible energy, incredible talent and incredible capabilities to this Army," she said. "You'll find our Army a place where you'll be challenged, a place of unlimited opportunities, and a place where you can truly make a difference for our nation. For you cadets who are getting ready to embark on this journey: fasten your seatbelts, work hard, challenge the institution, and brace yourselves for a wild ride."
Earlier in the morning, the cadets attended two panels with speakers from across the Army. Panel discussion topics included one on sexual assault and another one on opportunities for women in the Army.
Several questions from female cadets involved the restriction on female Soldiers from serving in certain combat roles.
Lt. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, deputy chief of staff for G-1, told cadets he believed one day those restrictions could be lifted, but that it would need to be further investigated by the Department of Defense.
"Will that ever happen? Perhaps," Rochelle said. "That's not the policy today, however."
Today, women can serve in 93 percent of Army occupations and they make up about 15 percent of the active Army.