A couple of months before he prepared to hang up his uniform one last time, Maj. Gen. Todd Royar, the commander of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, reflected back over his military career, which spanned more than three decades.
“I grew up in Iowa,” he said. “My father had gone to Texas A&M for a little bit and my grandfather was a Department of the Army civilian with the Army Corps of Engineers, so I had a slight exposure to the Army, but no one had served in the military.”
In fact, Royar said it was his sister’s boyfriend at the time who ended up influencing him to make the biggest decision of his life.
“My sister was dating a guy — who is now her husband — and he was going to West Point. I looked at him and I thought, ‘Well if he can do it, then I can too.’”
The now two-star general said he applied to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was rejected.
During the summer of 1984, Royar had just graduated from high school and was working while staying with his grandparents when he received a letter in the mail.
“The letter said, ‘You weren’t selected, but your file was good, so the West Point Association of Graduates will pay for you to go to any school you want, as long as you promise to re-apply next year.’”
Royar said he accepted that deal, and two days later the plan changed again.
He received a phone call about a spot at West Point for the fall of ‘84 and it was his if he wanted it. The catch was he had to report in one week.
“When I showed up, I didn’t have anything. Everyone else had shirts with their name on it. They gave me a blank shirt and a marker, so that didn’t go over very well,” he said with a grin.
A week later at the age of 17, then cadet Royar was at West Point thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, what did I get myself into,’ but after about a week, he said he never looked back.
With retirement on the horizon, he is looking back now and is somewhat content. On one hand he knows he served proudly for 34 years. On the other hand, he said he is not quite ready to let it go — including the early wake-up calls and morning PT.
“It’s a habit. It’s a lifestyle and I enjoy what I do,” he said. “I think I’ll still look to find ways to give back to the Army and to the community as best I can.”
He said he is still deciding what life after the military holds for him, but in the meantime, he’ll enjoy the free time to attend his sons’ games. His oldest son plays soccer at Virginia Military Institute and his two younger sons play high school soccer and golf.
After growing up in Iowa and serving at duty stations such as Germany, Rhode Island, the National Capital Region, etc., Royar said they ultimately chose to make Huntsville, Alabama, their retirement home because they love the area, calling AMCOM one of his favorite assignments.
“Every [duty station] is unique and every one of them has its advantages,” he said. “From a camaraderie point of view, I’d say my time with the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, or the 3rd Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas, were some of my favorites, but as far as making the most impact, here at AMCOM.”
Royar served at AMCOM twice over the past nearly 35 years, first in 2015 as the chief of staff, and four years later when he returned as the commanding general. He guided the mostly civilian workforce through a global pandemic and most recently, he hosted a weeklong celebration to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the command.
Through all of it, he never lost sight of the AMCOM mission and the warfighters who depend on it.
“AMCOM is a lifecycle management command and it has a lot of components to it that, quite frankly, those of us in uniform have not been exposed to,” he said. “It’s all the behind-the-scenes stuff that you just assume happens, but you don’t know how it happens, and you realize it’s a little more complicated than you thought it was.
I’m honored and blessed to have had the job, and I look forward to seeing AMCOM continue to excel and succeed. I’m proud of the entire workforce and I remind them, as I remind myself, that there are folks who are in harm’s way today and will be tomorrow, and we should treat them as if they were our own sons and daughters; we owe them our best.”