Growing the Flowers family business: Longest-serving Airman promotes son to brigadier general

  • Published
  • By Shireen Bedi
  • Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force promotions are significant moments in every Airman’s career, but for Brig. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers, Jr., Air Force Medical Service Manpower, Personnel and Resources director, his promotion also means continuing in the Flowers family business.

On September 7, Flowers, Jr. was pinned with his current rank by retired Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers, Sr., who is the longest-serving Airman in U.S. Air Force history.

“Having my father pin on my rank here at the Air Force Memorial means a lot because last time we were here, we were taking photos when my father retired,” Flowers, Jr. said. “This is where he ended his career in 2012 and here is where I am taking on a new role.”

Flowers, Sr. has been to every single one of his son’s promotions. And while it is often the case that Airmen are inspired to serve by close family members, few can say they can call upon a general officer for advice at any time. Especially one who had served for more than 46 years, started his Air Force career as an enlisted supply warehouseman at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, and retired as the deputy assistant secretary for budget in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller.

“Every assignment or challenge I have faced, I would think, ‘What would dad say or what would he do in this situation?’” Flowers, Jr. said. “His guidance has been my ‘True North’ compass in many of the decisions I have made, and he still remains my confidant when I am faced with a tough decision. I am just blessed to have him as that resource. Sometimes I feel I am at an unfair advantage to have someone like my father with his legacy to call when I need advice.”

Flowers, Sr. has seen the Air Force change significantly since he enlisted as a 17-year-old in 1965.

“I have seen the Air Force grow tremendously,” Flowers, Sr. said. “I started off as an airman basic, making $97 a month. Now, Airmen make as much as lieutenants did when I started. The capabilities I see in the Air Force today is amazing. It is as if we started with a cart and buggy when comparing to what we have today.”

Following in his father’s footsteps, Flowers, Jr. was compelled to serve his nation. Instead of working for a civilian hospital, Flowers, Jr. opted to commission into the U.S. Air Force’s Medical Service Corps. He graduated Commissioned Officer Training School in 1997. Since then, he held positions at squadron and at headquarters levels. In addition to serving in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, he also served as the command surgeon for Space Operations Command prior to his current role.

During his promotion ceremony, Flowers, Jr. reflected over his 24-year career, recognizing and thanking those who have helped him get to this point, including AFMS leadership, both past and present. He also recognized how much his father has impacted him as an Airman and leader.

“I first want to recognize Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers, aka dad…. The Air Force embodies Al Flowers and our family,” Flowers, Jr. said. “I was born in Wilford Hall carrying a [common access card] in my hand … and I am proud to stand here as a member of a legacy and heritage to serve this great nation. I am the keeper of the family business and I am minding the family store.”

This family legacy is furthered by the fact that Flowers, Sr. is also the longest-serving African American service member in Department of Defense history. Throughout his career, Flowers, Sr. has come to understand exactly how diversity serves to strengthen the Air Force.

“Diversity, inclusion and equity makes us all better, but equity is something we don’t talk a lot about, but I try to stress its importance,” Flowers, Sr. said. “It’s great to be diverse, it’s great to be included, but if there is no equity, you’re still not at the table. We ought to strive to make as much investment in hiring qualified people regardless of what they look like, and not be afraid of diversity.”

For Flowers, Jr., fostering diversity and inclusion will continue to be key to his current position and leadership role.

“I have great gratitude and praise for the senior minorities in the AFMS,” Flowers, Jr. said. “For me, in addition to diversity, there is inclusion and belonging. I hope to play a pivotal role in supporting that and continue to serve my Airmen and Guardians in this new role.”

As Flowers, Jr. takes on a new rank and leadership position, the Air Force family tradition continues with his two sons who also have military career aspirations, with one son at the U.S. Air Force Academy and another at Texas A&M.

During Flowers Jr.’s promotion ceremony, his father reminded him of what it means to pin on the brigadier general rank and to be a leader in the U.S. military, imparting his own servant leadership style.

“This promotion to general officer is important and you know it’s not about you,” Flowers, Sr. said. “You know that well. It is about the Air Force’s and the nation’s confidence in you and your ability to lead and accomplish the mission with our sons and daughters.”