At the end of September, Gen. Marcia Anderson earned her second star, making her the first African-American woman to become a major general in the Army. Her promotion and departure ceremony —which ended her tour at the head of Human Resource Command (HRC) in Fort Knox, Ky. —was a celebration of three decades of service.
She is the clerk of the bankruptcy court for the U.S. District Court in Madison, Wis. Her promotion means that as a two-star general, she will have a most interesting part-time job: deputy to the chief of the U.S. Army Reserve in Washington. She will nevertheless continue to make Wisconsin her home.
According to the Associated Press, Anderson sees her promotion being a day Black soldiers serving in the Civil War or as Tuskegee Airmen could never have imagined. “There were just limited opportunities,” Anderson told the Associated Press. “But they still signed up and served.”
Anderson’s father, a Korean War veteran who wanted to fly bombers–but couldn’t– came to Fort Knox for the ceremony. “I think he had to have two shirts that day because he popped the buttons off the first one,” Anderson said to National Public Radio. “He was so excited, he was so proud. It was more his moment, I think in many ways, than it was mine — his and a lot of other men and women like him who didn’t have the opportunity to succeed like I did.”
Anderson — also a wife, mom, grandmother and lawyer — says that despite the military service of her father, her going into the Army was unplanned.
While a student at Creighton University in Nebraska, she signed up for a military science course to fulfill her science requirement, but getting the class was only possible by signing up for ROTC, according to the AP.
“I firmly believe that we are never in control of very much,” an Army press release quotes Anderson saying. “The most we can do is have a set of values and beliefs, and adhere to them as closely as possible.”
After fulfilling her eight-year commitment to the military, she re-enlisted to continue training new recruits because she enjoyed doing it, she told the AP. “Before there is a war fighter, there is a trainer. I get really excited about training soldiers. I think it is the best job in the Army,” she said.
The Army press release said Anderson learned about leadership from peers and senior officers and incorporated their suggestions and advice into her personal style. It also says she is an advocate of learning and hard work.
“Be a lifelong learner. Accept people for who they are. Accept change because it is inevitable,” she said. “Do not expect to be rewarded just because you show up on time, do what is expected of you and leave at the same time every day, because that is merely C-grade work.”
Anderson’s work ethic was how she distinguished herself as head of HRC, completely revamping the website to make it more accessible and useful for soldiers and their families. She worked to integrate all components — active duty, Army reserve and National Guard — into one human resources system.
She also coordinated Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC), bringing base human resources operations from Virginia, Missouri and Indiana together at Fort Knox.