15 Nov 2008

Woman promoted to top US army rank

1:21 pm on 15 November 2008

An American woman has been promoted to four-star general - the first female to reach the US army's highest rank.

In her acceptance speech, Ann Dunwoody said she had never expected to rise so high in the ranks in her 33-year career.

General Dunwoody said no one was more surprised than she and her husband, retired air force officer Craig Brotchie.

"Behind every successful woman there's an astonished man," she added.

There are 21 female generals, most of them one-star, in the US army. Women make up 14% of the army's active-service strength of more than 500,000 soldiers.

General Dunwoody comes from a long line of soldiers, with a family member fighting in every American war since the Revolution.

She is head of the Army Materiel Command, in charge of weapons, equipment and uniforms for the army.

Women are barred from combat roles but have been allowed in the last two decades to serve in a wide variety of other positions.