A 1997 graduate of then-named Troy State University, United States Air Force Col. Terrence Adams was promoted to Brigadier General on Sept. 3 after 27 years of service.
Born and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, Adams followed in his brother’s footsteps and enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school. Instead of enlisting for four years, he chose a two-year program to avoid a long waiting period before being able to pursue higher education.
“I was looking at ways I didn’t have to pay, or for my mom to not have to pay,” Adams said. “She was already working two jobs and she’d paid for my brother to start school, and my sister was in school at the time so I needed to find another way.”
Adams joined as a cook and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, an Army base connected to Pope Air Force Base. It was this daily close connection that lead to his eventual switch six years later.
“I got to see how the airmen lived in comparison to the Army, so it was an easy decision,” Adams said laughing. “There was a recruiter from Alabama State University that came to Auburn University at Montgomery when I was a student. I vaguely remember the day—it was freshman orientation, and my fraternity had a table set up and (the recruiter) was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, too, so he came over with his uniform on and started talking. The next day I was in ROTC classes.”
Adams graduated from AUM in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems and joined the Air Force through ASU’s Detachment 019. His first assignment was recruiting in the Troy, Alabama area. In 1997, he earned a master’s degree in business administration from TROY.
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Walter Givhan, Senior Vice Chancellor for Advancement and Economic Development, represented TROY at the promotion ceremony and said it was a pleasure to see Adams pin on his first star.
“Troy University is proud of its service to the men and women of our military, and it makes us especially proud to see one of our graduates advance to the highest ranks of the military,” Givhan said. “I know personally how deserving Brig. Gen. Adams is of this promotion, and it was an honor to attend the ceremony to support and cheer him on his big day.”
Over his 27-year career, Adams has commanded six times at the squadron and group levels, three of which while on deployments to Seeb Air Base, Oman, Kirkuk Air Base, Iraq, Ali Air Base, Iraq, and Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, in support of operations Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, New Dawn and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. He has held a variety of positions at squadron, group, wing, major command, air staff and joint levels.
Currently, Adams is a Cyber Operations Officer serving as the Military Deputy Director of Concepts and Strategy Air Force Futures at the Air Force Headquarters at the Pentagon. In this role, he assists with developing and synchronizing Air Force strategy and strategic planning efforts, executes Air Force wargaming in support of Air Force Chief of Staff Title 10 responsibilities and the Strategy, Planning, and Programming process.
“What that means is we look and see what’s needed, what equipment we need to buy and how we should be training our people down the road. The way we fight, the way we organize, the people we should have,” Adams said of Air Force Futures. “We are the voice of tomorrow’s airmen.”
Like those who mentored him along the way—Lt. General (Ret.) Ronnie D. Hawkins Jr., Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Giovanni Tuck and Major General Laura Lenderman, among many others—Adams said his focus now is to develop prepared, capable, well-adjusted airmen through his three “L’s of leadership:” listen, lift and love.
“My personality, and my superpower if you want to see it that way, is to listen to them, to lift them up from where they are now to whatever goals they have and to express love,” he said. “We don’t use the ‘love’ word often in the military, but if there were more love and togetherness, you’d have less assaults, less discrimination, less suicides… Letting people know you really care about them is a door opener for them to be vulnerable so you can really understand who they are, and that doesn’t happen without a loving environment.”
The first General Officer from ASU’s Detachment 019, Adams has started an ROTC Alumni Association and invites alumni from nearby schools, like TROY, to also join.
“Coming from the Black Belt of Alabama and being from Tuskegee, I’m proud to support TROY wherever I go,” Adams said. “TROY has an impeccable staff of supportive leaders, and I could feel the warmth and love from the University and the staff and I thank them for all they’ve done. It’s always a pleasure when our paths cross.”
A full history of Adams’ education, assignments and awards can be found here.