NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark — It was a story of triumph for a man born in Guyana, South America who would one day come to the U.S. and join the military.
After having served in Iraq for two years and receiving multiple honors and awards, Colonel Leland Tony Shepard will now command the Arkansas Army National Guard as Brigadier General.
Shepard is the first Black officer to command the 6,500 Army guardsmen.
In a promotion ceremony held at Camp Robinson Maneuver Training Center on Sunday, Shepard said, "You can't be what you can't see," and he hopes that those throughout the various ranks who see him will be able to aspire to "be more and dream more."
"We have chosen African Americans and minorities to lead at various levels of our organization. We want to set what we think is an example for our state and for our country," said Shephard.
His children participated in the ceremony and they were able to present their father with various honors.
His daughter, 9-year-old Logan Shephard presented her father with the general officer belt. General officers are authorized to wear the black leather, gold plated belt buckle with any uniform they deem appropriate.
"I'm proud, because he's turning into the highest rank. I gave him the belt," said Logan.
His 5-year-old son Lukas Shepard helped pin insignia onto his father's uniform with the help of his mother Zandral Shepard.
The eldest son, Second Lt. Ryan Shepard, presented the general officer pistol to his father. A general officer pistol is one that is uniquely made for generals.
The Arkansas Army National Guard consists of four different brigades: 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 77th Theater Aviation Brigade, 87th Troop Command, and the 142nd Field Artillery Brigade.
"Ever since I moved to Arkansas, I joined the Arkansas National Guard. I'm really proud of my dad. He's set a perfect example for all of us to follow," said Second Lt. Shepard.
Shepard will also be the second Black general officer in the Arkansas Army National Guard.
The first Black general officer was Brig. Gen. William J. Johnson who first pinned on the rank on Oct. 16, 2007 and retired in 2012.
He’s been awarded the following medals:
- Legion of Merit, Bronze Star
- Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters
- Army Commendation Medal
- Army Achievement Medal
- National Defense Service Medal
- Iraqi Freedom Service Medal
Additionally, he’s been awarded the Combat Action Badge, and the prestigious Order of Mercury, Bronze; for the highest standards of integrity, moral character, professional competence and selflessness, for those who have contributed significantly to the Army Signal Corps.
Shepard knows being the first comes with a lot of responsibility.
"For my kids and all the other kids, not just mine, that can look up at that podium and be inspired by someone that looks like them. I'm serving as an inspiration," said Shephard.
He knows that commanding the Arkansas Army National Guard, is a big role to fill, but that role comes second to being a father.
Logan called him a "very good dad" while Lukas dubbed him "a super dad."
Shepard earned a doctoral degree in Executive Leadership from the University of Charleston, West. Va. He has a master’s degree in Information Technology Management from Webster University, Mo., as well as a master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the Army War College.
Shepard also earned a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management from Philander Smith College in Little Rock.
His hope is that the 22nd century generation of Army National Guard Shepard's will have a foundation laid out for them to succeed.