Adams retiring with more than forty years of service

Story by Stacy Floden, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Adams III retires from the Kentucky Army National Guard after 40 years of service to the country. The retirement ceremony was held Saturday, Sept. 8, in Frankfort, Ky. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ben Crane)

There’s hardly an empty spot on the walls of Brig. Gen. Benjamin Adams III’s office. A museum-quality collection with decades of memories hanging as testimony to a storied career.

“I told the adjutant general, if I could do this until the day I die, I would do it. That’s how much I enjoy it,” he said.

Adams has given the majority of his life to his country, forty years. He was commissioned right out of college in 1978, completed flight school in 1980 and spent 15 years on active duty. Changing careers, he walked away from the military for a while doing contract work, but missed the Army and missed flying so he looked into other opportunities. That search landed him with the Kentucky National Guard.

“At the time, Kentucky Adjutant General John Russell Groves was looking for someone with an aviation background that wasn’t already in the Guard, some fresh blood,” said Adams. “I didn’t think I had any chance because I didn’t have any affiliation with the Guard, but I was hired to become the flight facility commander.”

So from 1999 until September 2018, Adams was a full-time technician in the Kentucky National Guard. “I didn’t really understand what the Guard was until I got into the Guard. I didn’t really understand what a technician was until I became one. I just knew I wanted to fly again, wanted to finish my career in the military.”

Adams has been deployed numerous times throughout his career commanding at the company, battalion and brigade levels and most recently worked as the chief of joint staff, but now he is passing the baton and becoming a traditional Guardsmen as the assistant adjutant general to finish out his time in uniform.

“It’s a remarkable testament to his dedication that he served 40 years. Ben Adams loves what he does, he loves the Army,” stated Maj. Gen. Stephen Hogan, adjutant general for the Kentucky National Guard. “From 2nd Lieutenant to a one star general he has come in contact with thousands of people. He has authored, modified and seen to perfection many policies. His influence will be known for years and years to come because of his dedication to service.”

Click here for retirement ceremony photos.

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Adams has seen many changes within the military during his time. “A lot of people thought you joined the military because you couldn’t do anything else. But after 9/11, it was a reversal. You could now see the public changing the way it did to support the military,” said Adams. “I was glad to see the public trying to re-embrace the Vietnam Veterans. Kind of gives you a little tug on the heart to see because you still can’t give these guys enough thanks for what they did.”

So many accomplishment throughout a forty year career, too many to count, but it has never been about him, it has been about what he has done for others. As Adams looks back, serving with the Soldiers was always the best part and seeing them develop and grow.

“I had a Soldier that was literally a trouble maker, but he was just one of those guys, you knew there was something good inside, but you had to break away that hard shell around him. He grew up in a broken home, pretty much did his own thing to support himself and the one thing I hated to do was put him in stockade,” said Adams. “It wasn’t hard labor, but it was pretty close to it. I’d go check on him every day and each day I could see he was changing. By the time he finished his 14 days, he actually came up to me and said that’s what I needed and he realized not everyone was out to take advantage of him or hurt him. He turned 180 degrees and became the best Soldier in the battalion.”

Being a part of the bigger organization, to help the organization move forward and become better are the things Adams will always remember.

“Unless you become a Soldier you really don’t truly understand it. Because when you leave it, there’s a huge difference, there is a void in your soul because of that camaraderie that you had,” said Adams. “Clearly, the person to the left and right is there to watch your back and you are there to watch theirs. So, it’s that uniqueness of that type of relationship you can’t find anywhere else in any other job. I can look at each segment of my career and find something that is really good.”

Brig. Gen Benjamin F. Adams III with his family during his promotional ceremony where he pinned on his star in Dec. 2012

Brig. Gen Benjamin F. Adams III with his family during his promotional ceremony where he pinned on his star in Dec. 2012

And while there are so many success stories and achievements, there can also be regrets. “Don’t know if regret is the right word, maybe sad times. Survivor guilt, not bringing Soldiers home or knowing you made the decision that could have led to it. The family – missing all of the first steps, their first words, ballet recitals, concerts, the games, birthdays and anniversaries, I was gone a lot with my first two,” said Adams. “The kids certainly appreciated what I did, respected what I did and they knew how hard it was.”

Today, advancements in technology make it a lot easier to keep up with family and friends, but during Adams’ deployments and missions, he looked forward to getting Polaroids of his children, letters from his wife, who wrote him every day. It was something he anticipated, so he knew what they were doing.

Adams sees the value in service and more than just through the military. “I think there is a certain responsibility for every person in the United States should have, to serve, do something for your country. You’ve got 360 million people in this country. If everybody took a day to do something to make the place better. Could you imagine how much better this place would be?”

While he will hang up his uniform for the final time, he is continuing to serve his country and community as the commissioner for the Kentucky Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Service, it is what he has done for forty years.