President Bush on Monday nominated a top logistics officer to be the first female four-star general in U.S. history, tapping Lt. Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody to head the command responsible for supplying the Army with all its equipment.
Dunwoody's selection as chief of Army Materiel Command comes nearly 11 years after the first female three-star general was appointed, as head of Army intelligence, and 38 years after the first two female Army one-stars were named.
"Women continue to achieve great success and make invaluable contributions to the defense of this nation," Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in a statement. "This is an historic occasion for the Department of Defense."
The military has 57 female generals and admirals, five of whom have three stars.
An Army spokesperson said Dunwoody was unavailable for comment because her nomination must still be approved by the Senate. In a statement released by the Army, she said she was "very honored but also very humbled."
She has long been seen as the most likely female candidate to achieve a fourth star.
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught, who oversees the women's memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, said Dunwoody had served in a series of high-profile jobs within the Army and the Pentagon that made her a leading candidate.
Vaught noted that Dunwoody's career field also made her a front-runner. Along with the medical corps, the logistics field has among the highest numbers of female officers in the Army.
"This is a very significant event," Vaught said. "I had thought that if we were to get a four-star any time soon that probably she was the one."
Judith M. Matteson, director of the U.S. Army Women's Museum at Ft. Lee, Va., said that for years after the first female officers became one-star generals in the 1970s, it remained rare to see women achieve that rank.
But the Army largely mirrored the civilian world, increasingly naming women to leadership posts over the last two decades, she added.
"It was still onesies and twosies for a long time," Matteson said. "It's only been recently that you're beginning to see women promoted through the ranks."
Dunwoody assumed the position of Army Materiel Command's deputy commander just last week. For the previous three years, she had worked at the Pentagon as the head of logistics for the Army's general staff, also a three-star job.
Dunwoody, a New York native, was commissioned as an officer in 1975; her father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the military, as did her brother, sister and husband.