FORT BRAGG, N.C. –
The deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Reserve Command is retiring. Maj. Gen. Scottie Dean Carpenter will retire this month from the Army after almost 39 years of service to the nation.
The Canton, North Carolina, native is retiring with his wife, Phyllis, to Charlottesville, Virginia. Mrs. Carpenter retired as a lieutenant colonel Active Guard Reserve Judge Advocate General officer.
This is the second retirement for Carpenter, who left the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation as a special agent in-charge in 2013 after 31 years of service. This dual career has the 1979 Pisgah High School graduate looking forward to a less hectic pace of life.
“I planned my retirement on purpose for May. Winter can be dreary and depressing, and I wanted to retire and go outside and enjoy the summer and do things with my family.”
Carpenter began his career as a Simultaneous Membership cadet in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corp program at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee in 1979 and graduated in 3½ years with a major in criminal justice / law enforcement, while also serving in the North Carolina National Guard. He later transferred to the Army Reserve’s 805th Military Police Company in Raleigh.
From there, he served in a variety of billets, including a number of positions in North Carolina. Mobilized for Operation Desert Storm in 1990 as the company commander, HHC 171st Corps Support Group, the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan veteran has served at all levels, including as the deputy brigade commander, Task Force Guardian, Bagram, Afghanistan (Mobilized for Operation Enduring Freedom); commander, 641st Area Support Group, St. Petersburg, Florida, served as the acting commanding general, 143d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) in Orlando, Florida; and chief of staff, 103d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), Des Moines, Iowa (Mobilized for Operation Iraqi Freedom).
Upon selection to brigadier general, he was selected as commanding general, 11th Military Police Brigade, in Los Alamitos, California. In 2012/2013, he was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, and served as the commanding general for the 311th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
A graduate of the Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College, Carpenter was named as commanding general of the 84th Training Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky, in 2015, prior to being appointed as the deputy commanding general of USARC in 2017. His decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Combat Action Badge, Department of the Army Staff Identification Badge, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award and the Meritorious Unit Citation with two Oak Leaf Clusters, among many others.
Now that the end of a second career is approaching fast, Carpenter reflects on his upbringing, love of North Carolina, and how it all got started.
“I was not the best student in high school. I grew up in a time where grades were not that important, and if I got a C or D, I was happy. I never applied myself and kind of floated through,” said the right offensive and left defensive end on a two-time North Carolina State AAA football championship team. “And then my senior year, I decided I wanted to be a special agent with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and found out that required a four-year degree.
“So, I went to the guidance counselor and told her I wanted to go to college, and she said with a pause, I was better suited for a technical college. That one statement changed my life. It woke me up, and I realized that I had to apply myself.”
Looking toward the future, he talked to the admissions staff at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina, and was told his grades weren’t good enough – but there was an opportunity.
“They had a summer program where I would take three courses, and if I made at least all B’s, they would let me in school on a conditional basis. So I did and later graduated in 3½ years in December of 1982,” he said. “I realized it’s not always just how smart you are, but how much you apply yourself and how dedicated you are to achieving what it is you want to do or become.”
This dedication to study, combined with ROTC and weekend duty with the North Carolina National Guard, paved the way for his success.
“I needed the discipline. Once I got that figured out and learned how to study, it fell into place,” he said. “I knew what my goal was and that was to be an SBI agent and serve in the Army.”
Upon commissioning, then-2nd Lt. Carpenter started pestering the SBI to achieve his civilian goal.
“I got a call one day from the SBI Human Resources Director Mrs. Green, and she said we’re going to hire you for one reason: So that you’ll stop calling us every day!” Carpenter stated. “I had called them every day to see if anything had come open, and they finally hired me as a sworn forensic photographer in the crime laboratory.” Eight years later, he was promoted to special agent in charge.
So, for the next three decades, he dedicated himself to the Army and the people of North Carolina, a place very near and dear to his heart.
“I grew up in a small paper-mill town, Canton, North Carolina, where the smell of the paper mill was the smell of money, as my dad said. It helped put me through college, and I was fortunate to live in a beautiful town and state where you have mountains, foothills, flat lands and beaches,” he said. “If you can’t be happy in North Carolina, you can’t be happy anywhere.”
Carpenter says his small-town upbringing gave him a sense of direction and lessons learned that can be applied to any walk of life, especially as a young officer.
“I was taught to stay humble, and this was always enforced by my family. There is always going to be people smarter than you and higher ranking than you, and that’s OK,” stated Carpenter. “You’ve got to remember where you came from and who helped get you there. I’m not the smartest guy in the world, not brilliant at all, but I’m smart enough to ‘know what right looks like’ and to have smart people around you and let them do their jobs and give them credit for what they do. Empower them to be the very best they can be, and they will work hard for you, and in the end, you will look good.”
Asked what other lessons he would give to junior officers, Carpenter replied:
“Create friendships. Whether or not it’s the military, the SBI, or whatever you do, people make the difference. You treat people with dignity and respect, and they will take care of you,” he added. “You have to encourage people to be team players. You’re not always going to get all the ‘A’ team players. Your job as a leader is to empower the ‘B’ and ‘C’ performers to develop and grow onto the ‘A’ team performers, and they become your force multipliers. You end up with an all-star team.”
Spending over 33 years in two different professions, both dedicated to service, Carpenter offers thanks for those who helped him achieve his goals.
“I’ve always been blessed to have had great mentorship. As midlevel officers, now retired major generals, Steve Smith and Alan Bell gave me tough love and pushed me to be better,” he said. “They made me go to Command and General Staff College, as well as the Army War College, when I really didn’t want to go. They believed in me. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Secondly, the major general also received equally valuable direction from those he commanded.
“I had a great platoon sergeant, Tommy Johnson and Sgt. Maj. Scott Hardwick, who would let me make a decision, but if they thought it was the wrong one, wouldn’t necessarily call me out but would say something like: ‘That’s one approach, sir, but what do you think about doing it this way?’ Then they would let me decide, and more often than not, I would choose to do it their way. It’s all about having good people around you using their experience and listening to their advice.”
Passing along that wisdom to others, Carpenter also espouses another philosophy that is important for those seeking to go higher in the ranks.
“Again, stay humble. I don’t know if I ever felt like I’d made it. If you feel like you have arrived and got it, more often than not, you don’t. You’ll stop listening to people and make bad decisions,” he said. “I’m deep in knowledge about some things, but not as deep in others. I try to know enough about everything to know what right looks like.”
Carpenter points out that reaching flag-level rank is not easy, and those lieutenant colonels and colonels who have stars in their eyes should look around and emulate people who are successful and humble and one should seek guidance from the right people and remember who you are, don’t try to be someone you’re not.
“Find a good mentor. Not one that says they will do it and not have the time. But one who will make the time. Someone who will give you advice and lessons learned from themselves and others,” added Carpenter. “When you become a general officer, everyone wants to talk to you. Everyone wants to be your friend and laugh at your jokes that you know are not funny.
“You’ve always got to remember that when the uniform comes off, you’re the same as everyone else.”
Gen. George Patton once said, “Never tell a Soldier how to do something. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
Carpenter submits that this type of philosophy has carried over through many decades and wars, large and small, fought in every corner of the globe – and still holds true today, but with a caveat.
“Soldiers today are far more educated than when I came in, and they want to know why – why are we doing this and why are we doing it this way?” Carpenter says. “Obviously, in a combat environment, you don’t have the time to tell them why all the time, but when you do have the time, take it – it will be worth it.”
Carpenter adds that another key toward success is to always have a plan – know what you want to do and how to get it accomplished.
“I’ve never been one to leave anything to luck. Always have a plan. I would have a timeline for everything – SBI, Reserve, family. Now, sometimes, when I wanted to do something with one part of my life, it didn’t line up with other things in my life, so you have to adjust. But be sure to always have time for your family.”
The importance of spending time with family is something that Carpenter knows from experience – and relates to one of his biggest regrets in life.
“My son Wesley was a decorated Marine, put in for the Silver Star in Afghanistan, presented a Purple Heart and was almost killed in combat operations. But when he came back, he was different and struggled with his life. He got addicted to Adderall and was shot and killed one night because he was in a place he shouldn’t have been.”
“If I could do anything over in my life, I wish I had spent more time with him,” Carpenter added. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in everything – what you’re doing at the time – what you have to do tomorrow … and before you know it – time has flown by … the one thing I tell everyone is not to forget about your family, don’t make my mistake. You’ve got to make time for what’s important, not that those other things aren’t, just don’t forget about your family.”
A recipient of the Order of the Marechaussee (Bronze Award) and a member of the Military Police Regimental Association, Major General Carpenter will retire on May 29 with a ceremony at Fort Bragg.