An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.













NEWS | Feb. 21, 2024

A.C. Roper, first African American lieutenant general in U.S. Army Reserve, shares his passion and purpose

By Master Sgt. Latonya Kelly U.S. Army Reserve Command

Lt. Gen. A.C. Roper, has made numerous accomplishments representing both the civilian sector and the Army Reserve.

Currently serving as the deputy commander of the United States Northern Command and United States Element, North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado, he credits his time in the Army Reserve with helping him realize his purpose and follow his passion.

With more than three decades of combined service in the military and in civilian law enforcement, he emphasizes the importance of a strong family and faith foundation.

“My purpose has never wavered; the U.S. Army Reserve has helped me find my passion and purpose,” said Roper. “Never a doubt that I wouldn’t wear this uniform a significant time of my life.”

As a 19-year-old second lieutenant, his early appointment as platoon leader instilled in him the value of teamwork and mentorship.

"It forced me to develop maturity and discipline to listen,” said Roper. “It was a tremendous learning experience that I have carried with me throughout my career. I give the non-commissioned officer (NCO) corps credit for providing direction, cultivating leadership, and providing success through appropriate mentoring.”

Serving more than 33 years in civilian law enforcement, Roper was appointed Chief of the Birmingham Police Department in 2007. In this assignment, he led the largest municipal police department in the State of Alabama for a decade, further honing his leadership skills.

He shares key lessons learned through various assignments that contributed to his success as a leader after retiring from law enforcement in April 2018: “The four most important things I’ve learned in my law enforcement and military careers are the value of having amazing teams, time management, technology use, and family support.”

Recognizing the value of family support, Roper talked about growing up in a neighborhood known as the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ with his grandmother.

“I was raised in a loving home where hard work was expected and there was strict obedience and discipline,” explained Roper. “My grandma and other family members’ expectations helped pave the path I’m on now.”

As a child, Roper struggled with speaking publicly because he endured challenges with stuttering, a speech disorder characterized by repetition of sounds, syllables, or phrases. This is another challenge that he was able to overcome with military experience.

“Holding leadership roles and actually serving and deploying as a Public Affairs Officer enhanced my ability to communicate,” Roper said.

Speaking in public became second nature as he graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Academy and the FBI National Executive Institute. He is currently an adjunct professor of criminal justice.

Roper’s grandfather was another inspirational figure who shaped his dedication to service and his view of NCO impact.

“My Granddad, Cpl. William Roper, was a Buffalo Soldier who served in the 366th Infantry Regiment, 92nd Infantry Division. He deployed to France in a segregated Army unit and fought in the Meuse-Argonne Campaign of 1918.”

More than 380,000 African Americans served in a segregated units during World War I, with 600 commissioned as captains and lieutenants.

In 2018, Roper traveled to France during the World War I Centennial Commemorations and walked the same battlefield as his grandfather, Cpl. Roper. This experience confirmed that his deep-seated passion and purpose were aligned.

“His service paper reflects, ‘Character: Excellent,’ and witnessing that has helped shape my leadership philosophy,” Roper said. “My grandfather’s service wasn’t something he talked about, but he was extremely professional, respectful, and had a heart for service.”

Roper's grandfather passed away when he was a second lieutenant. As he was laid to rest, Roper rendered a final salute, honoring his service and the family’s legacy of duty.

Although it was considered an unthinkable achievement in his grandfather's time, Lt. Gen. Roper made history as the first African American in the Army Reserve’s 113-year history to achieve the rank of lieutenant general.

“My promotion is really about the countless others who paved the path I now walk,” Roper said. “We are working to build a more perfect union and this third star simply means I have greater influence and a greater responsibility to pay it forward.”

Concluding, he noted: "At the end of our careers, it’s not the metrics, or return on investments that matter most, but it’s about the legacy of influencing, impacting and improving the lives of others which has the most value. This philosophy has led me to knowing my passion and why I’m here.”

Roper is a role model for aspiring service members in the Army Reserve, law enforcement, and beyond, demonstrating the power of passion and purpose in fulfilling a life of service.