USMA Celebrates 40 Years of Women Admitted to West Point

WEST POINT, N.Y. -- The U.S. Military Academy is celebrating 40 years of women being admitted to West Point. 

“Five hundred dollars was a lot of money then, so I figure I could stand on my head for two years, so I signed up knowing full well this was going to be a short two-year detour en route to my teaching and coaching career,” said Gen. Ann Dunwoody, a retired four-star U.S. Army general.

But after Dunwoody signed up for the Army in 1974, two years became five years, and five became 38. Dunwoody would go on to become the first woman to earn the rank of four-star general in the United States military. It wasn't an easy journey, especially in a field dominated by men.

“But at the end of the day, I’d ask myself the question: "If I quit and don’t keep trying to make a difference and take the easy road out, who’s the real winner and who’s the real loser?" Dunwoody said.

On Friday, Dunwoody shared her story to West Point alumni, Army leaders, and cadets at the United States Military Academy. It was part of the Athena's Arena conference.

"I am inspired by all the women who displayed such grit and resilience when there were so many challenges stacked up against them,” said Yoon Dunham, a USMA instructor.

In 1976, 119 women made history, becoming the first to report to cadet basic training. Four years later, 62 of those women graduated with the Class of 1980. Of the over 50,000 living graduates of West Point, about seven percent are women.

“Diversity not only represents what America is, but diversity also represents the greatness or goodness out of the entire whole, so they can contribute to the goodness of the organization,” said USMA Superintendent Robert Caslen.

Last year, three West Point alumni made history as the first women to graduate from Army Ranger School. And recently, the Defense Department lifted restrictions on women in front line combat.

So Dunwoody says women will have more opportunities to serve with honor and distinction.

“Be the best you can be and never let others persuade you from something you’re passionate about,” Dunwoody said.

Another historic step was taken Friday: President Obama nominated the first woman to be Dean of the Academic Board at West Point.

Colonel Cindy Jebb was nominated by President Obama Friday. Jebb currently serves as a professor and head of the Department of Social Sciences.

She will replace Brigadier General Tim Trainor when he retires in June.

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