ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. (Aug. 28, 2012) - The first female finance officer to achieve the rank of major general has just been promoted, 92 years since the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution tore down the last formal barrier to women's enfranchisement.
Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal hosted the promotion ceremony for Maj. Gen. Karen E. Dyson at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, Va. Westphal praised Dyson for her dedicated service in defense of the nation and recognized her critical efforts in addressing the Army's audit readiness goals in a challenging fiscal environment.
"Since the first female member of the Continental Army, 99 women have reached the rank of general and there are currently 24 female general officers in the Army," said Westphal. "Today, I'm truly honored to promote one of our finest, smartest and strongest general officers."
The promotion ceremony was packed with Dyson's past and present colleagues, well-wishers, friends and family. Westphal and Dyson's husband, retired Air Force Col. Jim Chamberlain, pinned on her second star amid enthusiastic applause from a standing-room-only crowd.
"It has been an incredible journey that brings Jim and me here today," Dyson said after being promoted. "We decided to celebrate this milestone with those who have had a part in helping or supporting us along the way, and who have been an important part of our lives."
Dyson's promotion ceremony opened with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem, via pre-recorded video by her niece who was unable to attend the ceremony. Dyson's brother and cousins, all in the military, participated in the ceremony by unfurling her 2-star flag.
"Jim and I are overwhelmed by your presence here today," Dyson said. "Many of you, especially the leaders I've worked with closely, have all been powerful role models for me, and I thank you for your leadership, mentorship, and inspiration."
Dyson also recognized the support of her parents, Irmgard and Gordon Dyson; highlighting the influence of her father's military career and the balance her mother always provided to the family.
"My dad has always been an example setter for all of us, demonstrating and expecting in us a strong work ethic. In all the moves, and everywhere we went, in and out of government quarters, my mom masterfully built the family nest -- truly making wherever we were home," Dyson added.
Dyson, currently the Army's director of Business Operations, Office of Business Transformation, has been selected to be the director for Army Budget, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management & Comptroller), Washington, D.C.
"Karen's service has exposed her to finance operations from budget deliberations in the White House to the Army's front lines in deployed environments," Westphal said. "Her years of impeccable judgment will be needed in managing tough financial decisions [for the Army]."
This promotion is the latest first for women in the military, dating back to 1970 when Army Brig. Gen. Anna Mae Hays became the first female general officer in the U.S. military.
"Women in the armed forces are true pioneers," said Westphal. "They travel through uncharted territory and confront change. This is why this ceremony is so important. It is changing the [Army] culture and structure of our Force and making us better for it."
In a recent letter to all members of the Department of the Army, senior Army leadership heralded women's service in the Army for their "tremendous contributions and relentless spirit in helping to keep this Nation free." Dyson's promotion was held at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial to draw attention to that legacy of service.
"My career gave me experiences that were enriched by the power of teamwork, the shared satisfaction in service, and the natural curiosity about the next door open," said Dyson during her remarks. "I thank you all for your support as I move to the next level, and I commit to do my best to contribute my part to the Army leader team."