(August 18, 2012) For Gen. Dennis Via and the U.S. Army’s distinguished Signal Corps, two historic moments were marked in August.

First, Via, a Martinsville, Va. native, became the sixth African American in history to be promoted to the rank of four-star general on Aug. 7.

Then, less than a week later, he took over as commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC), making him the highest ranking Signal Corps officer since aviation pioneer Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold commanded the Army Air Forces during World War II.

With the promotion, Via takes the reins of the Army’s technology, logistics and materiel development apparatus. “If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it,” according to the U.S. Army AMC web site.

In addition, as the top officer of the Signal Corps, his rank indicates comprehensive experience in the branch of the service that orchestrates communication throughout the Army. The Signal Corps, which dates back to the Civil War development of “wig wag” signals to direct artillery fire and the use of balloons over battlefields to monitor enemy positions, now installs and manages military data communication.

Gen. Anne Dunwoody, Via’s predecessor at AMC, at the promotion ceremony, noted Via’s past duty assignments which include command of the 82nd Airborne Signal Battalion and commander of the 3rd Signal Brigade at Fort Hood, Texas.
“He has a caring personal leadership style that brings out the best in everyone. From the youngest private to the most senior officers, he has an absolute commitment to the highest standards of this Army’s profession, and has the wisdom and the vision to see how the future can be different and better,” said Dunwoody.

Via credited Edward L. Fountaine, an Army veteran who taught Via brick masonry during his junior and senior years at Carver High School in Martinsville with steering him toward an Army career and helping him enroll at Virginia State University. Via was named a distinguished military graduate from Virginia State and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps in 1980.
“Mr. Fontaine epitomizes that one person can make a difference in your life. I tell that story because it’s not about me today, it is about the impact all of us can make on someone in our lives,” said Via.