JOINT BASE LANGLEY - EUSTIS, Va. - Akin to Superman, one might think Maj. Gen. A. “Ray” Royalty has had a phone booth like Clark Kent’s that he has used to transform into one of the many roles he’s held in his 37 year Army career.
Whether active duty or Reserve, the list is highly impressive: Ranger, light infantry leader, mechanized infantry leader, senior combat advisor, battalion commander, brigade commander, commanding general, deputy chief of staff, co-founder, senior partner, student, teacher, devoted father and husband.
Many strive to be like those they admire, and Royalty will be the first to say his career was shaped in a similar fashion, and in turn created a legacy of service many Soldiers will surely attempt to duplicate.
“In retirement there is a gift that keeps on giving,” retired Maj. Gen. James Mallory said in a video message during the ceremony. “That gift is to be able to observe, from afar, the colonels, the lieutenant colonels, the majors, even the captains and those sergeants first class, and first sergeants and staff sergeants who have observed you. And found you as someone they wanted to emulate in their career and in their character. Your leadership style has given a whole new generation of future leaders of the Army a correct, true azimuth.”
A decorated career, Royalty’s started as an infantry officer after graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1983. His career spanned all levels of leadership with service both stateside as well as a deployment as the senior combat advisor to the 1st Iraqi National Police Division in Baghdad, Iraq as part of the 2007 coalition surge.
This deployment with the 1st Infantry Division, made him the third generation of his family to serve overseas with the historic unit. His father served with the division in Vietnam and his great uncle in Normandy during World War II.
“It’s just part of the DNA of my family,” Royalty said, listing off a long line of service members currently serving.
With the Big Red 1 patch firmly attached to his shoulder during his retirement ceremony, Royalty, with emotion in his voice, spoke about his father who, through his own Army career, influenced not only his desire to serve, but also his leadership style.
“You pick up on different things as a kid, and you don't know why,” he said. “Just listening to some of his stories, it kind of carries with you. Like how people should be treated, just like I want to be treated, regardless of rank because behind every uniform is a human being, an American. You have an obligation to take care of them.”
Those early lessons have resonated throughout his career to include service with 108th Division, 94th Army Reserve Command, 10th Mountain Division, culminating in his most recent assignment as deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
During the last 14 months at TRADOC, Royalty has walked past a photo of Gen. William E. DePuy, the first commanding general of TRADOC, which to some, would simply be seen as a black and white photo of an influential person in Army history. For Royalty, the photograph served as a reminder to continue to inspire service in those coming after him.
His father served under DePuy, who was the division commander for 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam. DePuy would later present his father with a Bronze Star for his bravery and sacrifice during that conflict.
“Seeing his photo everyday inspired me to do good work,” he said. “It’s important, to our country, to the Army, and to the Soldiers who will be trained by what we are doing here.”
Being part of something bigger and building a force that is confident and capable has driven his interactions with Soldiers throughout his career. As he ascended the leadership ranks, he felt he could help influence the future of the Army by motivating Soldiers to “improve themselves, get better, and grow.”
“You realize that the younger people coming behind you are going to own this and you’re not. The best that you can do is influence some of that, help coach them to find themselves,” he said. “To me, especially later in my career, I realized, this was not about my career. This is about how we are going to, hopefully, have a piece, a sliver, a verse in some column somewhere that you know you influenced.”
Even as a senior leader, Royalty continues to be encouraged by other’s growth through learning. This, along with his life-long desire to learn himself has driven him to encourage the development of others through mentorship and “open dialogue.”
“Sometimes it was simply getting the right players at the table at the same time to communicate and get on the same page,” he explained.
According to Royalty, leadership consists of not just completing a goal, but also an understanding and respect for the human side of things.
“It’s always been mission accomplishment and a piece of that is taking care of your Soldiers. If you don’t take care of your Soldiers your mission is probably at risk. Once you figure out those two go hand-in-hand, and it's not one or the other, it’s a delicate balance, throughout your leadership time to do that. Obviously, the Army wants you to accomplish the mission or they wouldn’t have sent you there but you can’t accomplish the admission to the best of your ability without Soldiers who are motivated and willing to do that.”
While his mission may have changed over the numerous assignments he has taken on, his dedication to being able to put an X in the “Accomplished” column has not wavered. Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin, Deputy Commanding General/Chief of Staff of TRADOC and USMA classmate of Royalty’s, outlined several of his major (many unexpected) military assignments, which he accepted and fulfilled with a vast knowledge and experience not learned in a classroom, simply stating, “You were needed and you were there.”
Many of those sudden orders encouraged Royalty to lean on his faith and his mentors. His faith has been the bedrock of his distinguished career, providing him the will to serve.
Royalty’s mentors spanned his entire career starting with his first platoon sergeant. Sgt. 1st Class Alejandro Castaneda, he said, was the one who “put him on the path” of service, and helped develop his fondness for coffee.
Also included in his list of mentors, because just one is hard to pinpoint in such a long, career he said, were Gen. Charles “Chip” Luckey, retired Maj. Gen. Rob Stall and Mallory. Each provided him with an example of what a successful Reserve officer should be and a lifeline of open, honest conversation.
Praising his classmate toward the end of the ceremony, Martin read the USMA mission statement, while a photo of a young Royalty in his cadet uniform showed in the background.
“I would say if the mission on 2 July, 1979 was to do just that [live up to the mission statement], Ray Royalty is living proof that that mission was accomplished. Congratulations,” Martin concluded.
While his final Army assignment has come to an end, his next is just beginning. Having set his second passion of business aside for “the right reason,” Royalty knows his next mission will encompass developments within the firm he is a partner of as well as possibly stepping into education.
However, serious talks of plans for the future will have to wait as the next few months will be dedicated to his wife Tenna, daughter Morgan and his parents.
Even the best super heroes make the tough choice to hang up their cape. Royalty is no exception. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be taking on a new mission.
“It’s like everything’s in a rucksack. I’m taking the Army rock out and I’m going to be putting my civilian rock in and continuing to march,” he said.
To view the retirement ceremony of Maj. Gen. Royalty visit the TRADOC Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USArmyTRADOC/videos/2764277820473800.