U.S. Army General Claudia Kennedy
(1947- )
By Kathleen McFadden

On June 2, 2000, Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy retired from the U.S. Army after a 31-year military career. At the time of her retirement, Claudia was the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence and a three-star general in the United States Army, the first and only woman to ever achieve this rank. The swearing in ceremony that marked her historic promotion to flag rank was held on June 17, 1997.

Claudia first joined the army in June 1969 during the turmoil of the Vietnam Era and was commissioned a second lieutenant through the Women’s Army Corps. In those days, the women’s and men’s service branches were segregated, the military was not a top career choice for college graduates, and women were not required to serve (unlike men who had to register for the draft).

Claudia explained her motivation this way: “First, to be an equal citizen, I believe you need to bear equal responsibility, and when your country’s at war, you do what you can to help.”

Over the course of her career, Claudia held a number of staff and command positions, working chiefly in intelligence. She never expected to rise as high as she did, saying that her big ambition when she was a captain was to be a battalion commander. She has commanded military intelligence and recruiting battalions, as well as an intelligence brigade, and served two tours in Germany and one in Korea.

After she had announced her retirement plans, Claudia made a sexual harassment complaint against a two-star general, Maj. Gen. Larry Smith. Claudia charged that Smith had touched her in a sexual manner and tried to kiss her in her Pentagon office in 1996, when they both wore two stars. Although Claudia did not report Smith’s actions to her superiors at the time, she raised the matter internally after the Army announced that Smith was to become the Army’s Deputy Inspector General. In that post, he would have overseen investigations of cases of sexual harassment. Claudia’s charges became public in March 2000, and once they were substantiated, the Army quietly rescinded Smith’s assignment.

At her Pentagon retirement ceremony, Claudia did not mention the case or General Smith. Instead she focused on the increasing opportunities available to women in the U.S. military: “The Army asks ‘Be all you can be.’ Today I can honestly tell you that I have been all that I could be. I have risen farther than I ever dared to hope.” Claudia was born on July 14, 1947.