White Sands Missile Range is now led under the guidance of a two star general, Maj. Gen. Gwen Bingham. Bingham and her family took part in an official promotion ceremony to Major General at WSMR’s Frontier Club Dec. 2. Army Material Command Commander and close friend, Gen. Dennis L. Via hosted the ceremony where Bingham received her Major General epaulets, flag, and took the oath of office.
“Not only is she a great Soldier, she’s a tremendous Army Commander,” Via said. “We don’t promote based on past performance, we promote based on future potential.”
Bingham received confirmation of the promotion in April. She received her first star in April 2011. There were a total of 24 Brigadier Generals who were confirmed by the Senate for promotion to Major General, out of the 24 Bingham was the only female. Bingham, who joined the Army in 1981 has broken several of the female typecast roles in the over three decades that she has served. She was appointed as the first female Quartermaster General and is the first female Commanding General for WSMR. Bingham also served as the first female Garrison Commander in Fort Lee, Va. in 2011.
“I cannot think of a more qualified leader for the Army to promote,” Via said.
Via and Bingham’s husband, Patrick, placed her Major General epaulets on her officer’s coat during the ceremony. Her children, Tava and Phillip, placed her two star epaulets on her blouse and ATEC Commander, Maj. Gen. Peter Utley performed the Oath of Office. WSMR Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Sellers unfurled Bingham’s new two star flag during the ceremony as well. During her speech as a newly promoted Major General, Bingham took time to thank her family and God, military members and friends, and WSMR and the surrounding community for her successes in the Army.
“This young gal from Troy, Ala. is profoundly humbled and grateful to wear this uniform and I thank you all so very much,” Bingham said. “You just can’t get there by yourself, lest you fool yourself. I don’t want to ever let down my family and the men and women entrusted in my care.”
Bingham also spoke of her mentors throughout her 32 years in the Army. Among them, her mother and father, who taught her to have an attitude of gratitude and to appreciate the challenges as they build you up for what is ahead. She also acknowledged the fact that she is not the common mold of a Major General being that she is not only a female but also significantly shorter than several of her counterparts. She joked that she was still on the search for a General who was shorter than her.
“I wear these two stars with great pride in being a part of something that is bigger than myself…with profound respect and a new commitment to do good,” Bingham said.
Bingham’s Aide-de-camp, Capt. Angela Somnuk was also recognized during the ceremony when Bingham and Army Logistics University Commandant, Col. Rick Harney changed the pin on Somnuk’s uniform from a 1 star aide-de-camp pin to a 2 star pin. The ceremony ended with a 13 round salute and a presentation of one of the rounds fired to the new Major General.
“This is in honor of all of the veterans everywhere and those who paved the way before me,” Bingham said. “I’m excited, humbled and profoundly grateful to continue to serve.”