REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Being a good role model and leader means preparing young Soldiers and civilians for the future, according to one of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command's directors.The USASMDC Space and Missile Defense Center of Excellence Director of Operations, Lorenzo Mack, said role models ranging from his parents to the Buffalo Soldiers made him the man he is today, and he is using what he learned from those role models to prepare the young men and women who will be the future of the Department of Defense."By the time I was a major in the Army I realized I had to start preparing for the future, for the people coming in behind me," Mack said.Mack's career in the Army began, unexpectedly and begrudgingly, while he was a student at Tuskegee University."When I left home, I wasn't planning on being in the Army. As a freshman in college, I had to get my class schedule signed by the dean of the School of Business," said Mack. "The master sergeant was standing at the steps of the School of Business and wouldn't let me in the building until I heard his spiel about ROTC. I signed up for ROTC just so I could get in the building and get my class schedule signed."Though joining ROTC was not originally a part of Mack's plan, he said that he came to enjoy it and liked the fact that he would be able to make contributions to the country and the world through the Army. ROTC also helped Mack discover new role models that would continue to inspire him throughout his career.While learning to be a Soldier and studying business at Tuskegee University, Mack said he was influenced by the Tuskegee Airmen who worked on campus."I saw them around campus all the time but they were just so humble; they never walked up to you," said Mack. "And no one ever talked about what they did in World War II; how they flew all those missions and never lost a bomber."Mack said through the struggles the Tuskegee Airmen faced, they helped pave the way for his Army career."I didn't know the impact they had until I looked back at it later," said Mack. "I thought I had it tough when I was in uniform but not compared to what they went through."Mack said he was also inspired by retired Col. Charles Young, who taught him to never give up through his determination to serve in the Army."I admire Col. Charles Young, who was a Buffalo Soldier. He taught me a lot about perseverance," said Mack. "It was tough for him to just get in the military."Young began his military journey in 1883 when he took the West Point entrance exam. Though Young scored the second highest on the exam, he was not selected to attend the military academy. He was able to report to the military academy a year later when the candidate in front of him dropped out. Gaining admission would just be the beginning of Young's struggles throughout his military career; he soon faced insults and ostracism from his instructors and fellow cadets."The Academy was a true test where classmates jeered at him and called him numerous unpleasant nicknames. Young considered quitting West Point after his first year, but his father convinced him to stay," said Mack. "Though it took Young five years to complete the curriculum, his decision to persevere was a source of pride for him. Young graduated and received his commission in 1889 and became the first black American to reach the rank of Colonel in 1917."In addition to the Tuskegee Airmen and Young, Mack said his parents also influenced his life and who he is today."As I was growing up, I thought my parents were hard on me," said Mack. "As I got older I realized they weren't hard, they were just parenting for the future and they made me the man I am today."Mack said he continues to rely on the lessons he learned from his parents and has used them to make difficult decisions throughout his career."When it came time to make a decision I didn't have to look in a regulation to make a determination of whether something was right or wrong," said Mack. "All I had to do was look in the mirror and ask if the decision I made would make my parents proud of me. If the answer was yes, I made the right decision."Mack said one of the most important takeaways from his role models was the need to mentor and develop those who served under him and would still be serving after he retired."What I learned from them was to develop those subordinates below me," said Mack. "You mentor them and lead them in the right direction so that they can be successful."Mack said it is important to him for his subordinates to learn from his mistakes, but not to repeat them."I learn from people's mistakes," said Mack. "I made some mistakes in my career, and I don't let my subordinates make the same mistakes I did."Through mentoring and developing his subordinates, Mack said he hopes he has made an impact on their careers."When I get invited to a promotion ceremony for someone or someone gets selected for a command that served under me, I like to think I had an impact on that person's career," said Mack.While he is no longer in uniform, Mack said he feels confident in the people who have come after him to serve."I pulled the uniform off. I'm comfortable, because I know it's in good hands with them," Mack said. "It was never about me; it was about service."Related Links:USASMDC Facebook pageUSASMDC websiteUSASMDC Twitter African Americans in the U.S. Worldwide News