WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 4, 2009) - An Army Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet had ended his first semester at Morgan State University in Baltimore. When he went home, he walked in with his uniform on and had no rank or ribbons of any sort and his father greeted him by saying "hello General!"

Maybe this World War II combat veteran was simply joking with his son, or perhaps he had a vision of the future.

Gen. William "Kip" Ward became the first commander of U.S. Africa Command -- one of six unified geographic commands within the Department of Defense -- on Oct. 1, 2007.

He was promoted as the fifth and currently the only serving African-American four-star general on May 26, 2006.

"I am proud of our role as a military in fulfilling the American dream that all Americans, regardless of their ethnic background, have a fair opportunity to serve their nation," Ward said. "I am deeply appreciative that, based on my individual character and merits, I have been given opportunities denied to many people of earlier generations, including my own parents."

Ward was born and raised in Baltimore. He said his nickname was given to him by his mother's youngest sister.

"For some reason, she started calling me Kip, and it is something that stayed with me through my childhood, in my college years and into my adulthood."

When Ward enrolled in Morgan State University to pursue a degree in political science, there was a mandatory requirement for two years of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, and he decided to stay with the program.

In 1971, Ward was commissioned into the infantry. Although his father had already named him general, Ward's intentions were not to make a career out of the Army.

"When I graduated, I planned on going through the Army to serve my four years, come out and then go to law school and become a lawyer. That was my plan."

What changed his mind'

"When I reached my four-year mark, I found myself commanding an infantry company in South Korea, with more than 100 incredibly talented and diverse young men, and I was really enjoying it."

Now as commander of U.S. Africa Command, Ward is dedicated to building partnerships with Africa to achieve this newly established command's mission.

"Our intention is to partner with nations in Africa and the international community, with the goal of realizing an Africa that is secure, stable and developed in ways meaningful to its people and our global society."

Ward says the creation of U.S. Africa Command creates a partnership that was once episodic but is now consistent.

"You now have a single command that devotes its efforts on a daily basis to helping African partners and friends address their security shortfalls in a persistent and consistent way."

The Army's example of diversity is seen by Ward as a great example for Africa and the international community to model.

"The U.S. military has people of many ethnicities, of many major religions, with origins from around the world and represent the remarkable diversity of our nation.

"It is my sincere belief that this diversity is a powerful example to others as we conduct our important mission working with the nations of Africa and the international community, helping to build capable and increasingly professional militaries that serve their people and reflect their own multi-ethnic societies."

Ward has been committed to reaching out to people of Africa. He has visited residents in the village of Nagad in Djibouti and met with members of the Malaria Consortium in Uganda to discuss providing insecticide-treated bed nets to camp residents, with an emphasis on protecting pregnant women and women with newborn children.

He also takes the time to tell other military personnel how important their missions are under U.S. African Command. In January , he met with U.S. Navy Seabees of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa at a construction site for a six-classroom schoolhouse in Moroni, Comoros.

"You're here to help in an area that makes the greatest difference for children," Ward told the Seabees.

The general finds it gratifying when Soldiers have a positive effect that goes beyond American soil.

"I am proud and deeply honored when I travel to other countries and people tell me some story about how an American Soldier in some way gave them a sense of security and hope for the future."

With all that Ward has accomplished in his military career, success to him is measured on how he has impacted others.

"If people think of Kip Ward as an honest, capable teammate, concerned about them and their families, who made a positive difference in their lives, and for the officials in Africa, that I was most concerned about the well-being and security of their people then I've succeeded."