COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Army’s former “top cop” — the first woman to head its criminal-investigation division, and the first woman to be provost marshal general — sat in a kind of living room near Upper Arlington last week to talk about her current job.
Colleen McGuire is the executive director of Delta Gamma Fraternity, a women’s organization with headquarters on Riverside Drive. If you were on a college campus with one of its 147 chapters, you might refer to the organization as a sorority, though fraternity is part of its official name.
Much of what McGuire talked about was her military service, how it inspired a new Delta Gamma project to help blind veterans, and how leading the fraternity might not be that different from being a brigadier general who spent most of her 30-year career in the military police. Both are about guiding young people.
But it has to be kind of different, right?
Well, OK, McGuire said. During 18 months in Iraq, she took fire in convoys. She was almost killed in her quarters by an insurgent’s stray AK-47 bullet.
McGuire might think about that “when I have concerned parents calling me saying, ‘You won’t let my daughter go to a formal because of her grades,’??” she said.
McGuire once showed that AK-47 bullet to Delta Gamma employees upset about some fraternity issue, to prove that things could be worse, which is sort of why Delta Gamma gave her its top job in August.
“I was absolutely thrilled with the choice,” said Betsy Inch Fouss, a former fraternity executive director who now is the executive director of the separate Delta Gamma Foundation. “She’s such a leader. Her strength is strategic planning.”
McGuire, 56, originally from Missoula, Mont., joined Delta Gamma as an undergraduate at the University of Montana. She joined the ROTC, too. She eventually became an officer in the military police, she said, because it was the closest a woman could get to combat.
She served in Germany and Washington, D.C. She married, had a daughter who is now 24, and divorced.
McGuire was the commander of the maximum-security military prison in Leavenworth, Kan., and the provost marshal of multinational forces in Iraq. She started the Army’s Suicide Prevention Task Force.
She became the Army’s provost marshal — the person in charge of law enforcement inside the Army — in 2010. At the top of her field, she decided to retire. About that time, she received an email from Delta Gamma, asking members for suggestions on a new executive director.
McGuire figured she’d send in a resume as practice for finding a new career. The fraternity’s governing council liked what it saw.
Without much connection to central Ohio, McGuire moved here to take the job. And she proposed a project soon after she arrived that combined the military and Delta Gamma.
The fraternity’s major philanthropic effort for more than 75 years has been “Service for Sight.” The Delta Gamma Foundation supports schools for the visually impaired, Braille programs, service dogs and eyeglass initiatives. College fraternity members volunteer with similar programs.
McGuire’s proposal, taken up by Fouss and the foundation, is called “Joining Forces.” It directs volunteer efforts and grants toward veterans who have vision problems as a result of their military service.
The campaign began on Jan. 28. Alumnae in Colorado already have volunteered to help with the Wounded Warrior Games there in May.
Later this month, the Ohio State University chapter is to bring in Navy Lt. Brad Snyder, who was blinded by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2011 but won two gold medals at the 2012 Paralympic Games. He’ll speak to students about his experiences.
“I’m excited to see what else we can do” with the initiative, said Hannah Nugent, 21, the OSU chapter president.
The project allows McGuire to serve her former colleagues as a civilian. She’s happy in that role. At this point, she’ll take the occasional parent call over military law enforcement.
“I did not want to continue that level of stressful work and engagement,” she said.