September 27, 2015 –
TUSKEGEE, Ala. - When Maj. Gen. A.C. Roper graduated from high school at age 17, he wrote in his memory book that he wanted to be a police officer, he wanted to join the Army and he wanted to marry a sweet pretty woman who understood him.
Today, the 51-year-old Reserve Soldier is the leader of approximately 7,000 Soldiers assigned to the 80th Training Command, and in his civilian capacity he’s the Birmingham, Alabama, police chief.
Roper shared his teenage aspirations with an audience at the Tuskegee University Centennial Awards Leadership Banquet during his keynote address at the institution in Tuskegee, Alabama, Sept. 24, 2015. The banquet marked the culmination of the 20th Annual Booker T. Washington Economic Development Summit.
During the speech entitled, “Applying the Principles of Public Service to Leadership in Business and Community,” Roper said, an organization’s successes and failures are based on the quality of its leadership.
“Whether it’s a fortune five hundred company or a mom and pop store, it rises and falls on the level of the leadership,” he said. “You put a good leader in any situation and that leader will improve the organization.”
“Tuskegee University and the Army Reserve share the common goal of preparing young people for adulthood through education, mentoring and leadership development,” Roper added.
The Army Reserve has a reservoir of talented and skilled Citizen Soldiers, he told the audience, which included entrepreneurs, trade association leaders, and members of community-based organizations.
“They have good character, they’ve already passed the background check, [they have] all the qualities you’re looking for,” he said.
Using himself as an example, Roper said, the Army Reserve provides Soldiers with opportunities to lead, and they develop skills that are transferable to the business sector. He said, he applies his Soldier leadership skills every day in his role as police chief.
Roper also told the audience about the Army Reserve’s Minuteman Scholarships available to university students to help pay for college. Students can serve part-time in the Reserve while they develop their civilian careers.
“We have about a hundred scholarships we’d like to give away by October, 15,” said Roper, who became an Army officer at age 19.
Though he didn’t understand the concept nor the strategy behind the three goals he set at age 17, Roper knew he wanted to serve his community as a police officer and his country as a Soldier. He also knew that he needed family support to accomplish both.
Roper met his wife on a blind date that went disastrous but they eventually married and celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in March 2015.
“We hated each other after that date,” Roper said. “We didn’t speak for weeks. I can’t believe she didn’t want to talk to me.”