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Maj. Gen. Marcia Anderson might never have gotten involved with the U.S. Army if she hadn’t needed a science credit at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
She was wandering through a gym considering booths advertising classes when she saw one for military science. She asked the man attending the booth whether the class counted as a science credit. It did.
About 30 years later, Anderson stood in front of soldiers, political officials and area residents and was promoted as the first black woman to become a major general in the Army.
“Most of this was unplanned, but I firmly believe that we are never really in control of our lives anyway,” she said.
A promotion and departure ceremony in her honor took place Thursday at Fort Knox to celebrate her elevation from brigadier general to the two-star rank.
Anderson’s duties have included helping to guide the Base Realignment and Closure process and redesigning the Human Resources Command website since coming to Fort Knox last September.
Following her promotion, she’ll serve as deputy chief of the Army Reserve with duty at the Pentagon. She plans to leave Fort Knox today.
Anderson, who lives in Verona, Wis., when not on active duty, credits the barrier-challengers who came before her with allowing her to make Army history by assuming her new rank.
She named soldiers who fought during the Civil War and the Tuskegee Airmen among those who have helped make her promotion possible.
Anderson said her father, Rudy Mahan of Beloit, Wis., was among those held back by race yet he never stopped believing in the United States and potential possibilities for all Americans.
He drove trucks for the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and was not able to achieve his goal of flying bombers because of his race, she said.
Her father had run off to the barbershop to tell all his friends within 15 minutes of hearing in May that she was nominated for the promotion, she said.
“Today is for him, my mother, my ancestors and countless others who were disappointed and saw their dreams deferred,” she said.
Anderson said she strives for excellence, which requires attributes such as being flexible, working well with people and living out her principles.
“You can’t expect to be praised when you show up on time, do what you’re supposed to do and leave at the same time every day because that is only ‘C’-grade work,” she said.
Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commanding general of Army Accessions Command at Fort Knox, praised Anderson, saying she has touched and encouraged thousands of people as she has built a remarkable career.
“She’s a teammate, which means she works with the team,” he said. “She’s on the team, but she’s also a team player. I guess the biggest thing for me, Marcia, is that you’re a role model.”
Audience members burst into applause as Freakley described a time during which he saw Anderson explaining to young people about her work in the Army and how proud she is to serve.
“You could see it,” he said. “It was palpable, her influence on those young people.”
Freakley said Anderson’s promotion is richly deserved.
More applause and whoops filled the area as Maj. Gen. Gina Farrisee, commanding general for Army Human Resources Command at Fort Knox, said Anderson’s outgoing nature, determination and professionalism qualify her for the historic honor.
“You will see it in the history books and you can say that you were here,” she said.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or email@example.com.