Lloyd J. Austin, from four-star general to the first African-American Secretary of Defense in U.S.

Stephen Nartey October 31, 2022
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III briefs the press from the Pentagon Briefing Room, Arlington, VA, Feb. 19, 2021. (DoD Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)/Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Secretary of Defense

He was a high-performing high school student, but, when he got an academic scholarship to study at the University of Notre Dame as a result of his sterling athletic record, his father was resolute that his son’s true calling was with the military.

His father, Lloyd Austin Sr, a postal worker, made him begin his military training at the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York. That is how former four-star General in the U.S. Army Lloyd Austin’s journey to becoming the first African-American Secretary of Defence began, according to Black Past.

As an astute sportsman, Austin continued with his passion and played rugby while at the military academy. His first leadership role after he graduated from the academy in 1975 was to take up the platoon leader in the 3rd Infantry Division in Germany.

While climbing the military ladder, the four-star general also had his eye on his academics. He enrolled at Auburn University and business management at Webster University to acquire his master’s degree in counselor education. Eighteen years on, he rose to become the Commander of the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, and later was Commander of the 3rd Brigade, 82d Airborne Division.

He went on to occupy the position of Chief, Joint Operations Division, J-3 on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon from 1999 to 2001. Four years after his retirement, President Joseph Biden nominated him to serve as the first African American to serve as U.S. Secretary of Defense.

On August 8, 1953, he was born in Mobile, Alabama and from a humble beginning in Thomasville, Georgia, he has risen to become one of the most powerful African Americans in the United States. He was born to Aletia Taylor Austin, a devout Catholic, and had five siblings.

In 2001, he took up the Assistant Division Commander for the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart in Georgia and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He commanded army officers in Iraq and Afghanistan as the Commanding General for the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in New York and was also in Afghanistan as Commander, Combined Joint Task Force-180.

He was the Chief of Staff of the United States Central Command in 2005, and a year later placed in charge of the XVIII Airborne Corps. In Iraq, he was the Commander of Multi-National Corps and became Commanding General of all U.S. Forces in Iraq in 2010. His role was to assign 50,000 military officers to strategic points and redeploy them in Iraq.

He was actively involved in overseeing cases of suicides, mental health challenges, and physical injuries suffered by officers engaged in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan when he became Vice Chief of Staff of the Army in 2012. This role also required him to supervise a budget of billions of dollars for military operations.  

He finally pulled the curtains on his military service as commander of U.S. Central Command in 2013. He was awarded the Silver Star Medal for valor in combat, the Defense Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit. In 2016, he formally retired from military service.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 31, 2022


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