Gov. Janet Mills, left, and Brig. Gen. Diane Dunn receive applause after Dunn was sworn in as the new leader of the Maine National Guard Friday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Diane L. Dunn became the first woman to lead the Maine National Guard during a formal swearing-in ceremony Friday.

Dunn also assumed the titles of Maine’s adjutant general and commissioner of the Maine Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management.

Dunn’s history-making ascent was made official during a “changing of responsibility” ceremony at Camp Champlain, the Maine National Guard Joint Force Headquarters.

“I’ve always tried to diminish ‘the first’ title,” Dunn said during an interview before the ceremony. “But, with the fact that somebody has to be first and it is historic, I think it’s an opportunity to then communicate to a wider audience of the opportunities that exist for everyone in the National Guard in particular as we talk about military service and leadership in general. I would be losing an opportunity if I didn’t use this day – this historic event – to broadcast loud and clear to everyone that Maine has great opportunities for everyone.”

Brig. Gen. Diane Dunn speaks to news reporters before a ceremony installing her as the leader of the Maine National Guard on Friday. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Dunn, 57, replaces Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham, who is retiring after nearly 40 years of military service and has served as leader of the Maine National Guard, adjunct general and commissioner of the department since 2015.

Farnham was presented with two awards Friday – the Distinguished Service medal and the Minuteman award – as well as other retirement gifts. He said he’s participated in many retirement ceremonies and witnessed the range of emotions – pride in wearing the uniform, sadness for leaving the team and excitement about the future.


“I feel all of that,” Farnham said, his voice breaking. “So for those of you still serving, I hope I remind you today that what you do matters. You should be proud today, and don’t wait until your retirement to feel and celebrate those emotions.”

Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King thanked Farnham for his service and congratulated Dunn on her history-making appointment.

Collins, who delivered her remarks via pre-recorded video, called Farnum and Dunn “great patriots.” Dunn, she said, “is a trailblazer and an inspiration” for being the first woman to hold the post.

King, who attended the ceremony, called the guard the “Swiss Army Knife of Maine,” because of its versatility and ability to help in different kinds of emergencies.

“Of course, Doug Farnham has given extraordinary service to his country, as a pilot and trainer and then as a leader and a commander,” King said. “And General Dunn is now taking the baton of authority and leadership, and she, I know, will continue the tradition.”

Gov. Janet Mills said she has relied on Farnham’s “wise counsel and advice” during challenging times. And though she noted Dunn’s history-making appointment, the governor made it clear that Dunn was absolutely qualified.


“She is deeply respected by the men and women of the department who served with her and very qualified for the job,” Mills said. “Gen. Dunn is the absolute right person to take on the immense responsibilities of leading Maine’s National Guard and the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management.”

Mills administered the oath of office, followed by the symbolic passing of a Maine flag from Farnham to Mills and then to Dunn.

“Ma’am, I assume responsibility,” Dunn declared, as she saluted Mills as Maine’s 41st adjutant general.

During a brief speech, Dunn said she always believed women had opportunities to lead in Maine, but also noted the significance of her appointment.

“In my mind, the opportunities have always been available for leadership at the highest level,” she said. “And I have navigated my career with that mindset. But I recognize that today puts the final stamp on it. I hope you’re all encouraged by this historic event.”

Dunn, who lives in the Belgrade Lakes region, is a lifelong Mainer.


Born in Farmington, she grew up in Jay and Lewiston and became the first person in her family to graduate from college, earning a bachelor’s degree from Husson University, a master’s in public administration from the University of Maine, and a master’s in strategic studies at the U.S. Army War College.

Dunn was commissioned with the guard in 1988. She was a licensed social work until 1997, when she began working for the guard full time.

Dunn has shattered glass ceilings throughout her 33-year military career. In 2014, she was the first woman to command a brigade in the Maine Army National Guard. When she was promoted to brigadier general six years later, she became the first female general in the guard’s 200-year history.

Dunn, who retired in 2021 and most recently served as senior adviser and chief of staff to University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias President Joan Ferrini-Mundy, was nominated by Mills in December.

Dunn has served as company commander of the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 286th Supply Services Battalion in Bangor, battalion commander of the 240th Regional Training Institute while it was in Augusta; battalion commander of the 286th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion in both Bangor and Afghanistan, and brigade commander of the 120th Regional Support Group in Bangor.

Her career has also included national assignments as the joint regional branch chief of U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and as a deputy commanding general for U.S. Army North at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

She is the recipient of the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with four Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, the National Defense Service Medal with one Bronze Service Star, the Global War on Terrorism-Service Medal, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, among several other distinguished decorations and badges.

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