In 2008 Ann E. Dunwoody became the first female four-star general in American military history. (In the U.S. Army, one higher rank exists—General of the Army—but only two officers have ever held it: George Washington and John Pershing.) Dunwoody is in charge of army logistics; around the world, it is her 61,000-plus employees who make sure American troops have everything from beans to bullets, helmets to helicopters, spare parts to spare ribs. We asked her about her code of conduct:
I never intended to make the military a career. I was going to be a phys ed teacher. But I tried a college program—they paid me $500 a month in exchange for two years in the army—and I fell in love. It was work that offered something new every day. There were physical challenges, logistical challenges. It was hard. It was fun.
When I was commissioned, in 1975, the army was rebuilding after Vietnam, and just starting to integrate women. Early on, at airborne school, where we learned to jump out of planes, they encouraged us to cut our hair. If we kept it long, it had to be pulled back and off our necks. But then they said we couldn't wear barrettes—we had to tape our hair to our head, with what we call 100-mile-an-hour tape. It's like duct tape, but green. Most people cut their hair. I didn't.
A little later, when I was a platoon leader at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, there was a tendency to put me in charge of women only. There were other frustrations, too. Like the time I finished some advanced training, then got a lower job than I should have. All I said was, "I'm going to go in and do my best." I believe when you do that, people recognize your talent. And it worked.