CAMP ROBINSON, NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – From the streets of Guyana South America to leading the Arkansas National Guard, Brigadier General Leland “Tony” Shepherd has quite the story.
In his words, “Only in America could my story be possible.”
Brigadier General Shepherd is one of five general officers who report directly to the Governor’s top military official, and as Chief of the Army National Guard commands our state’s largest military force.
Also, Brig. General Shepherd’s promotion this month is history. He is the first African-American from Arkansas to hold the title.
At 20, Tony Shepherd left Guyana for the United States. After school, he could have joined Oklahoma, Florida, California, or even the Virgin Islands National Guard, but the sincerity of an acceptance letter from Arkansas made and kept Arkansas his home. .
“He wrote it on two pages, by hand, and it meant something to me,” Brig. General Shepherd called back. “So I moved out not knowing anyone in the state.”
Rising through the ranks, Shepherd wanted to render his service for the opportunities presented to him. He’s seen leaders before him break new ground like in 2008 when Deputy Adjutant General Johnson became the first African-American general in the Arkansas National Guard’s 203-year history.
Shepherd said: “It allowed me to visualize what I can be.”
For years, the military leader lived by the motto “You can’t be what you can’t see.” So when he became a one-star general this month, he recognized the significance to all who follow.
“It’s a giant leap forward for African Americans across this state, across this country, across this world,” Shepherd said. during his promotion acceptance speech.
A week after his promotion, Shepherd told our station, “I think you’ll see that this milestone is the start of a more frequent occurrence where it doesn’t become as big of a moment, and that’s what I hope to see.”
While in charge of the Arkansas National Guard, Shepherd plans to put a robust diversity plan in place so people from all walks of life can pursue command opportunities. However, he doesn’t want his promotion to distract from the main focus of his role, keeping the force at full strength and making sure they are all well trained for whatever the Governor or President asks.
With a wink Brig. General Tony Shepherd concluded: “My role is to serve as a leader. I happen to be black.
Shepherd also credits God for directing his way to the top. He prays daily for the wisdom to command the more than 6,500 soldiers under his charge.