Mount Marty Alumna Promoted to Army General at On-campus Event

July 1, 2024

Randy Dockendorf

This story was originally published in the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan and republished here with its permission. © Copyright 2024

While attending Mount Marty University in the early 1990s, Kathleen (Bares) Clary was looking for a way to cover her college expenses.

“I was studying nursing, and I figured I better find a way to pay for this degree,” she said. “I saw signs around campus for ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps). I had never considered serving in the military, but I decided to check it out.”

At first, Clary looked at the Army as a way of paying for her education. In the process, she liked what she saw in terms of service, camaraderie, discipline and a career.

Her father was surprised to hear his daughter’s decision, even though he served in the South Dakota National Guard and had sons in the service.

“The military? Are you sure?” Clary recalled him asking. “It wasn’t talked about in my house, even though I had two brothers in the Navy at the time. I guess I knew I wanted to be a nurse, but being in the Army wasn’t something I planned for.”

She not only pursued an Army career, she now also holds one of its highest commands over thousands of soldiers. In particular, she has risen as one of the top-ranked female U.S. Army leaders.

On Saturday, Col. Clary returned to Mount Marty for the promotion ceremony elevating her to brigadier general. The ceremony included Maj. Gen. Joe Marsiglia, Col. Scott Valley and Clary’s husband, Col. Seth Pedersen.

“(Pedersen) has been my rock. I couldn’t make this journey without him,” she told the Press & Dakotan. “My whole family and my friends have been supportive of me.”

Marsiglia made a special trip to Yankton, at his own expense, to provide the host remarks for the ceremony, Clary said. In his remarks, Marsiglia showed why he made the trip, speaking with tremendous respect for Clary.

“The Army gets it right in who they promote to senior level,” he said. “She is one of the smartest, most prepared and knowledgeable people I know. She has the right knowledge and skills to be a transformative leader.”


In a Press & Dakotan interview, Clary credited her parents, Eileen and the late Laddie Bares, with providing a strong work ethic and Catholic foundation. Mount Marty and Sacred Heart Monastery — including a family member, Sister Natalie — also provided the same sense of faith, morals, compassion and humbleness, she said.

“I’m number six out of seven kids in our family, and I was the first one to go to a four-year school. We weren’t poor, but we worked hard for whatever we got,” she said. “I found that same sense with the (Benedictine) Sisters at Mount Marty. You worked hard and built a sense of community. I even named my first daughter after Sister Natalie.”

Now, Clary will not only lead those under her command but also make them better people, he said.

Also taking part in Saturday’s ceremony were the new brigadier general’s daughters, Natalie Clary and Rachel Clary, and retired Col. Harold Hudson, who gave the invocation and benediction. In addition, family and friends took part in the ceremony and filled the South Dining Room of the Roncalli Center.

Clary and Pedersen live in Seattle, but Clary serves as senior vice president at a healthcare analysis company in Salt Lake City, Utah. She works remotely for her job and also travels a great deal around the nation and overseas for her military duties.

Beaming with pride at the audience, Clary said she held no doubt where to hold her promotion ceremony.

“I think it’s full circle,” she told the Press & Dakotan. “I think Mount Marty and the Army opened so many doors for me, and I come from this community. To me, it was important to share this day with family, friends, Mount Marty and the community.”


While brigadier general has become her rank, her new title is Deputy Commanding General at the Third Medical Command, which is mission medical command deployment support in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Clary’s command has been designated as the “Desert Medics” because of its combat assignments from the Middle East to Afghanistan. The command consists of more than 7,300 soldiers in 90 units.

Clary graduated from Bon Homme High School in 1989 and MMU in 1993 with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. She earned the distinction of  Distinguished Military Graduate and received a Regular Army commission upon graduation in 1993.

She was assigned to Madigan Army Medical Center as a registered nurse on the surgical floor at Fort Lewis, Washington. She has since risen up the ranks and earned numerous medals and commendations.

She transitioned to the Army Reserve in 1999. She was mobilized in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as the head nurse of the Adult and Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Madigan Army Medical Center.

Clary returned from a nine-month deployment in May 2019, where she was the deputy commander of the 452nd CSH stationed at Camp Afrijan, Kuwait.

She has earned her master’s and doctorate degrees. She also graduated from the United States Army War College, earning a Master of Strategic Studies.

In her new role, she brings more than 30 years of education, training and experience. She ensures her soldiers are prepared to provide state-of-the-art combat care at a moment’s notice.

The military has changed greatly since Clary started her career.

“When I started, it was the Cold War and I was shown flash cards to see if I could determine a Russian tank from the Allied one,” she said with a smile. “That has changed greatly, especially since 9/11. The Reserves can now receive more quickly the call to duty.”

Because of the changing dynamics of threats, today’s military operates on large-scale combat operations, Clary said. Today’s global conflicts provide a clue on what to expect from enemies, she added.

“I think if you just wear the uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re active duty, National Guard or Reserve,” she said. “We are all making sacrifices.”

The U.S. Army Medical forces are comprised of about 70% Reserves and 30% active duty, Clary said. The Reserves continue in their civilian jobs, many of them in medical fields, and prepare for a combat support role, she said.

“If a war kicks off, wherever that would be, the Army has active duty, of course,” she said. “But you have the Reserves waiting to respond if they need medical assets. So, we have everything from nurses to doctors.”

Clary admitted, at times, she was in awe of where she found herself and the responsibilities to which she was entrusted.

“It made me do things that made me uncomfortable, but that made me a better person and it eventually made me a very good soldier,” she said. “I didn’t know it at the time, but over the last 30 years, I love the jobs that put me out of my comfort zone. Nurse, soldier, officer — the Army did that for me, and I love that.”

For Clary, last Saturday’s promotion ceremony reflects the U.S. Army’s importance at a time when fewer Americans hold a connection to the military.

“It was a good lesson on the importance of what you do, making sure we get the word out about the value of serving your country,” she said. “The Army hasn’t met its recruiting numbers the last couple of years. But General (Randy) George (the U.S. Army chief of staff) does believe we will meet our recruiting numbers this year. And the trajectory is on target.”

Clary referenced the former U.S. Army marketing campaign, “Be All You can Be.”


The Army has promoted its soldiers based on ability and character without regard to race, religion or gender, Clary said. Still, she has reached rarified air for women with her new rank.

“Back in the ‘90s, when I joined the Army, they didn’t even make women’s boots. We got men’s boots to the appropriate size,” she said. “Now, in the medical units, there are more females and probably more than other parts of the Army.”

With her promotion to brigadier general, she also shows the strides which women have made both in the military and society at large, with great possibilities ahead.

“In general, I would say part of my journey has been that people have seen things in me that I don’t think I saw,” she said. “I would say, for any female, to take those opportunities. If someone else sees something new, have the courage to try something new. And I always tell people I mentor to take the hard jobs. They’re hard for a reason, and taking those hard jobs prepared me.”

This week, Clary is taking the first major mission as brigadier general, as she travels to Kuwait and Qatar. “We have units deployed there now, so I’m going over there to see how they are,” she said.

If her schedule works, Clary will return this fall to be honored as one of MMU’s Distinguished Alumni at the Lancer Days homecoming celebration.

“This community has been so invested in me, and I feel centered here,” she said. “I’m proud of where I came from and how it has played a major part getting me to where I am today.”

While she has worked for her achievement, Clary considers it an honor.

“I think it’s a privilege to be selected for this role, but I think there’s a duty I have to represent the Army well, to take the opportunity to tell my story,” she said.

“If a farm girl from Tyndall, South Dakota, can be a brigadier general, there’s nothing in the United States of America that would stop you from doing what you want to do,” she said.

“The Army has been my soul. It has given me tremendous relationships and made me the officer I am today. I am ready for my next position. It’s a good feeling, and I hope to fulfill it well.”