By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
FORT MYER, Va., April 27, 2011 - Army Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward reviewed and saluted the troops for the last time yesterday on Summerall Field parade ground here as he retired from a career that spanned four decades and culminated in his service as the first commander of U.S. Africa Command.
Africom stood up its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, in October 2007.
Army Secretary John M. McHugh reflected on Ward's career.
"From Somalia to Cairo to Israel and Stuttgart, and back home again, Kip Ward has distinguished himself in each and every assignment," McHugh said. "On behalf of the U.S. Army Kip, 'Job well done.'"
McHugh noted Ward is a Baltimore native and the son of a World War II combat engineer who served at a time when the Army was segregated.
"I imagine it would have been easy, and indeed it would have been understandable, if Kip Ward turned away, rather than turned toward and embraced the Army, both as an institution and as a career," McHugh said.
By following in his father's footsteps, McHugh said, Ward's career is an inspiration.
"That a son of a sergeant in a segregated Army would rise through the ranks to become one of only a handful of African-Americans in our nation's history to attain the rank of four-star general is a testament to the integrity, tenacity, character and the ability of General Kip Ward," the Army secretary said.
Ward said he was 22 years old when Air Force fighter pilot Daniel "Chappie" James Jr. -– who later would become the first African-American four-star general -- commissioned him as an infantry officer in 1971. Initially, Ward said, he thought he'd spend four years in the Army and then go to law school.
"But as the years went on," Ward said, "it became clearer that serving my country and taking care of my teammates was a pretty fulfilling undertaking ... in a way I saw my dad do it."
Wearing a star, Ward told the crowd of well-wishers, doesn't mean it belongs to the one who wears it.
"[It belongs] to all the aspects of one's life that created the opportunities, and to the causes that led to that star," he said. "I have proudly worn the cloth of our nation. ... I never left a fallen comrade. I remain proud to serve. I am a soldier."
As a commander, Ward said, he shared his commitment to his troops with an equal commitment to their families. One of his privileges during his career, he said, was meeting America's sons and daughters, and caring for their families.
"There is no greater honor," he said.
John M. McHugh
Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward
U.S. Africa Command