Conviction, Family, military duties: USARCENT chief of staff turns adversity into strength
November 10, 2009
Disciplined and dedicated warrior. Caring father and Family man. A man with many facets, but one mission: to lead.
The Chief of Staff of Third Army U.S. Army Central, Col. Stephen M. Twitty, will be promoted to brigadier general Nov. 30. His path to the highest level of military service is paved with values, discipline and perseverance.
The product of small-town upbringing and strong family values, Twitty is a native of Chesnee, S.C., a town with an average population of 1,650 people and one high school, which doubled as the middle school.
Aca,!A"I grew up in the country and was raised in a modest home with good caring parents, grandparents, a twin sister and an older brother,Aca,!A? said Twitty. Aca,!A"I was raised in the country and enjoyed being a good old country boy.Aca,!A?
Being raised in a small rural community like Chesnee, having a solid family structure and good role models played a major role in forming the man we see today.
The first influential person in his childhood was his momAca,!a,,cs dad, who served in the Air Force.
Aca,!A"At a very young age, when I was three, four and five years old, my grandfather used to march us all over the house playing Army with us,Aca,!A? said Twitty. Aca,!A"He would have us saluting and hiding behind trees. He definitely built the foundation which led me to going into the military.Aca,!A?
Being raised in the country had its benefits for the young Twitty. He had an Uncle Randall Mackerson, who served in the Army.
Aca,!A"I could remember him coming home after serving his tour in the military,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"He had on his green uniform with all his awards, and the people in the community embraced him with adoration. I was like, WOW! I want to be just like that.Aca,!A?
Even though he had two strong role models in his life, it didnAca,!a,,ct take away from the home schooling he received from mom and dad.
Aca,!A"My parents played a huge part in making me the person I am today,Aca,!A? said Twitty. Aca,!A"I got my work ethic from both my mom and dad. They worked long and hard to provide for our Family. They instilled in me my sense of ambition, setting goals and achieving them.Aca,!A?
Having identified serving in the military as one of his goals, Twitty didnAca,!a,,ct even wait until high school graduation.
He said he was just an average student getting by just under the radar. A typical kid that loved to play high school football, basketball, ran track and knew he wanted to go to college.
He was pretty good in football and had ambitions of playing at the college level but going to a small high school didnAca,!a,,ct foster the recognition afforded larger schools, according to Twitty. He excelled at defensive back and wide receiver.
Aca,!A"My Family knew I was interested in the military. They too felt that the military was a noble service and it was an honor to serve this great country,Aca,!A? said Twitty. Aca,!A"They never doubted my ability to make sound life decisions as a young man still in high school.Aca,!A?
With nothing but support, at age 17 he joined the Army National Guard and attended basic training at Fort Sill, Okla., the summer between his junior and senior years of high school.
Aca,!A"It was during my time in basic training that I realized I love this,Aca,!A? said Twitty. Aca,!A"I love soldiering, comradery, discipline and being part of a team that has a greater mission than self. I knew then I would be staying in the military for a while.Aca,!A?
Twitty graduated high school and went on to attend South Carolina State University.
Upon promotion he will be a member of a select group of 14 SCSU students to be appointed to the rank of general officer.
As a commissioned officer, he has had the opportunity to achieve career success on many different levels.
When asked if there was any position that groomed him or set him up for success, his response was quick and to the point.
Aca,!A"It isnAca,!a,,ct me or any one position,Aca,!A? said Twitty. Aca,!A"I love commanding. ThereAca,!a,,cs nothing greater than commanding the nationAca,!a,,cs finest.Aca,!A?
This statement isnAca,!a,,ct to be taken as some time-honored clichAfA.
Aca,!A"I love being around Soldiers,Aca,!A? said Twitty. Aca,!A"Seeing them execute day-after-day in harsh weather conditions, striving for more than themselves but to be part of a greater purpose. This gives me nothing but joy at the end of the day. Soldiers have executed and executed well under my watch, and that is the reason why I am the leader I am today. It isnAca,!a,,ct about me. ItAca,!a,,cs about those great Soldiers I have been fortunate enough to lead. I credit them.Aca,!A?
In his endeavor to lead, his philosophy has proven to be user friendly.
Aca,!A"My philosophy in all my commands is: No. 1, keep it simple to where Soldiers can understand what it is. Two, keep it short,Aca,!A? he said.
Soldiers live in an environment now where there is a lot going on. They are fighting wars on two fronts. They train to support these efforts, and balance a Family too.
Aca,!A"Some commanders come on board with 50 million things they want to accomplish during their two years of command,Aca,!A? said Twitty.
ItAca,!a,,cs his belief that you should come in with only three or four things you want to accomplish and accomplish well, and make sure soldiers know those things.
If you throw 50 things at any group of people, they will probably pick up three or four of them he said. Keeping it simple makes sure everyone is on the same sheet of music, which plays an important role in executing military operations.
Aca,!A"Come in with these three or four things and challenge the Soldiers to achieve their potential, and they will achieve these goals,Aca,!A? said Twitty. Aca,!A"In the end you will be a better organization and better prepared for combat.Aca,!A?
His role as chief of staff is simple and to the point.
His job is to assist the commanding general of Third Army, Lt. Gen. William G. Webster, by synchronizing the staff and prioritizing the commanderAca,!a,,cs tasks that need to be accomplished for this command to move along.
He will be straight forward and clear in the direction he puts out and will hold those accountable to their suspenses, he said.
Aca,!A"Those with whom he serves can expect him to be fair, firm and dedicated to upholding the Army standard,Aca,!A? said Karen W. Twitty, his wife.
Twitty and Karen met midway through his career at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. They have two daughters, Ashley, 20, and Brooke, 4.
Ashley is a student at Drexel University and is currently enrolled in an internship in New Jersey.
Brooke is currently at home solidifying the foundation of the Family structure.
Karen says she is her husbandAca,!a,,cs biggest fan and supporter.
Twitty confirmed this fact.
Aca,!A"SheAca,!a,,cs my biggest fan but also my biggest critic,Aca,!A? said Twitty. Aca,!A"I enjoy her feedback because she gives me an honest assessment on how IAca,!a,,cm doing in life as a whole, not just military. God has put us on this earth to make a contribution to society.Aca,!A?
For Twitty this contribution to society manifests itself in church, maintaining a spiritual Family and his dedication to being a father.
Aca,!A"I want to make sure that my kids grow up with the understanding that, one, I love them more than anything in life. Two, I will always be there for them. Three, they donAca,!a,,ct have to hide anything from me,Aca,!A? said Twitty.
Twitty was diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer while serving as commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. He was preparing Soldiers for a March 2008 deployment to Iraq when he received the news.
Karen never wavered in her support for her husband. She backed him every step of the way , even when he choose to deploy two days after being discharged from the hospital.
Twitty is cancer free.
Besides his wife and daughters, he feels a sense of responsibility to care for his mom and dad.
Aca,!A"As parents get up in age, thereAca,!a,,cs a role reversal. In the beginning there was a commitment by them to take care of us, now my commitment is to take care of them,Aca,!A? said Twitty.
People may look at Twitty and think heAca,!a,,cs all Soldier all the time, but that is far from the truth.
Maintaining the Army standard requires discipline and dedication, but this is only one facet of a SoldierAca,!a,,cs life. Maintaining a solid Family foundation deserves the same if not more dedication. ItAca,!a,,cs all about balance.
He is a Family man, so he understands how important it is for Soldiers to be there when their families need them.
Aca,!A"People need to understand this about him, if you do your job to the best of your ability and do what is asked of you, you will have time with your Family,Aca,!A? said Karen. Aca,!A"Because thereAca,!a,,cs no doubt that he wants time with us.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"Our Families will be there long after the military is no longer a way of life,Aca,!A? Twitty added. Aca,!A"God has given us the ability to give all we can for our great country, but at the same time he has given us the will to give our Families even more.Aca,!A?