ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- When Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins was commissioned into the Army as a second lieutenant, he was asked how long he intended to stay in the Army.
"Three years," he said. "I'll be out of here in three years."
Thirty-four years later, Wins stood in a retirement ceremony at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, Nov. 6, reflecting on an Army career that spanned three decades.
"My peer group and friends, even to this day, are pretty amazed to see the guy who said, 'I'll be out of here in three years once I fulfill my commitment,' is still here," Wins said.
As a young adult, Wins' future aspirations included being the first person in his family to obtain a college degree, and he wanted to see the world.
A basketball scholarship gave him the opportunity to attend Virginia Military Institute.
"I loved sports, and I was always very competitive in nature. Of all the sports I played, basketball ignited a fire."
Playing with the VMI Keydets allowed him to earn the degree he sought.
"To see the pride on my mom and dad's face when I received a college degree was priceless," Wins said.
Basketball also prepared him for the future, he said, because the Army and athletics had a lot in common: teamwork, competition, and the need for grit and determination. Wins was commissioned as a Field Artillery Officer in July 1985, and he went on to serve much longer than his initial three-year ROTC commitment. He said he continued to find things in the Army that challenged or interested him, so he stayed. It, also, gave him the chance to travel the world.
Early in his career, he was selected by the Headquarters Department of the Army to be an action officer and learn how the Army worked as an enterprise, interacting daily with senior strategic leaders for the Army.
"Getting that exposure, you learn things about yourself, you build confidence," Wins said.
Each new assignment during his career gave him valuable insight to the various processes of the operational Army, as well as how to rely on the subject matter experts around him, he said.
During a deployment in Afghanistan, Wins' initial mission to help the Afghans stand up a protection force turned into an assignment as the deputy commander of police, where he stood up the entire Afghan police force.
"You have a tendency to have to learn on your feet," Wins said. "You have to try to together good teams of folks who are skilled in these areas to help you advance the mission."
Wins said those lessons were invaluable during the culminating assignment of his career, when he took command of what was then the Research, Development and Engineering Command in 2016.
"How are you going to lead this organization with a lot very senior, very technical people, when you're not a technical guy?" Wins recalled. "I fell back on my experience in Afghanistan. I knew I wasn't an expert; I knew who the experts were, and they resided in the organization."
One of Wins' priorities, during his tenure at RDECOM, was to increase communications across the command, which includes eight centers and lab, as well as collaboration and teamwork.
"He really shined in his leadership, particularly his people skills and his ability to connect on an approachable, personal level," said Capt. Joshua Blanc, Wins' former Aide-de-Camp. "He created a vision to manage talent and allow for change in a diverse organization."
Another priority was unifying the command's identity through a robust branding campaign. CCDC's transition into Army Futures Command, or AFC, helped accelerate this project.
"Cedric has led this team through what most people don't realize as the challenge it presents and that's a transition. The transition from RDECOM to CCDC and the transition during the stand-up of Army Futures Command. In every case, Cedric has done a phenomenal job and been phenomenal teammate," General John M. Murray, AFC commanding general, said.
Wins relinquished command of CCDC Nov. 1, leaving behind a more unified command, knowing there will be many other changes. Not only for the command but, also, for him personally.
"I'll be watching with great satisfaction knowing that my old CCDC team, and its teammates and partners, are still forging the future for the greatest Army in the world," Wins said.
His main priority now is to spend time with his family and take much needed personal time.
However, he doesn't plan to stop thinking of ways to help the warfighter and the Army.
"I'll be a Soldier for life and [will] look for ways to contribute to help other Soldiers. If I can help, if I can tell a story about my experience that would help the Army, then I'll be glad to do it."
The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC), has the mission to provide the research, engineering, and analytical expertise to deliver capabilities that enable the Army to deter and, when necessary, decisively defeat any adversary now and in the future. The command collaborates across the Future Force Modernization Enterprise and its own global network of domestic and international partners in academia, industry and other government agencies to accomplish this mission. CCDC is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Futures Command.