Class of 2023 graduate poised to chart path in ‘family business’ • United States Air Force Academy


The graduate of the class of 2023 is ready to make his way in the “family business”.

Cadet flowers are sworn in at the commissioning ceremony.Second Lt. Alfred K. Flowers III from his grandfather, retired Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers and received the oath of office from his father, Brig. General Alfred K. Flowers, Jr., during an induction ceremony May 31, 2023 (US Air Force photo by Trevor Cokley)

by Randy Rowton
US Air Force Academy Strategic Communications

US Air Force Academy, Colo.- Kendall’s newly commissioned 2nd Lt. Alfred K. Ababa III’s most prized graduation gift was a small rectangular piece of wood that could rest on any officer’s desk. He was given a name plate from his father Brig. General Alfred K. Flowers Jr., June 1, after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy.

In the year After his appointment in 1997, Brig. General Flowers received the nameplate from his father, retired Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers, who served 46 years, the longest of any Airman in the history of the service.

2nd Lt. Flowers said, “The nameplate is always a motivation, but rather, a sign of what’s coming my way. But now that I’ve been through these four years and the experiences I’ve had, it makes more sense. I am thankful and grateful to be here. On a symbolic level, it is for myself and my younger brother to pass the torch on to the next generation.

Entering the business

From 2nd Lt. Flowers’ grandfather to his father, the family has always considered the Air Force the “family business.” Both generals met their wives in the Air Force, and Lt. Flowers’ younger brother, Aiden, is an ROTC cadet at Texas A&M University attending the pre-med program.

As 2nd Lt. Flowers was commissioned the night before his academy graduation, his father and grandfather administered the oath of office, his mother and grandfather stood at the bar and ROTC Cadet Ayden Flowers gave his brother his first salute.

Cadet Flowers receive shoulder boards at the commissioning ceremony.Second Lt. Alfred K. Flowers III’s grandmother Lisa (left) and mother Ida (right) pin on the bars during the induction ceremony May 31, 2023 (US Air Force photo by Trevor Cokley)

“I’m still seeing the same boy in the brown bomber jacket we gave him,” said Maj. Gen. Flowers. “That boy always wanted to be an Air Force pilot.”

Lieutenant Flowers was unaware of the family business when he decided to make the Cadet Corps Air Officer Commanding his squadron. But a commanding officer soon told the cadet where he got his professional qualities.

“After selecting Kendall as squadron commander, I remember thinking what an amazing young man he was,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas E. Conover. He had what I was looking for – a balance between academic smarts and people smarts.

It’s not a mystery.

The brothers’ role models are their father and grandfather, who prevented them from pushing the military as a career. But the generals quickly realized that their examples were enough. Along with the example and guidance of their parents and grandparents, life in the Air Force, watching their father at work and seeing how both generals treat their people helped both boys figure out where they wanted to go with their lives.

“We saw the Air Force as a family business, and they saw it,” Major General Flowers said. “The military force was not a mystery to them.”

One morning a week before graduation, the simple act of putting on his uniform name tag created Bridges. General Flowers said to reflect on his son’s joining the family business.

“I was wearing my uniform the other day, thinking that the thing that binds us is the name tag,” Brig. General Flowers said. “It’s only $6 per dress sale. But Kendall represents our family’s trials, tribulations, tribulations and values. That’s the intrinsic value of the blue name tag.”

Once a cadet, 2nd Lt. Flowers relied on many lessons learned from his father and grandfather, especially the platoon’s first sergeant, and later, commanding officer.

“As the Cadet Squadron 2 commander, he would call me about the decisions he was considering for his staff,” Brig. General Flowers said. “I would tell him that you are the commander. You make the decision, and you own it. If you make the wrong decision, you are on your own.

But his father’s biggest leadership lesson came down to one piece of advice.

“We are very much in the people business,” Brig. General Flowers said. “I try to let anyone take care of me. You’ll never make it unless you try hard.”

The Cadet Flowers receive a hug from the family during the ceremony.Second Lt. Alfred K. Flowers III named his grandfather, retired Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers and his father, Brig. General Alfred K. Flowers, Jr., during an induction ceremony May 31, 2023 (US Air Force photo by Trevor Cokley)

Its own function

2nd Lt. Flowers received his bachelor’s degree in management. For at least the next year, he will attend academy inductions in Nashville, Tenn.

Flowers’ Legacy For the newest Air Force officer, 2nd Lt. Flowers knows he has the responsibility to carve his own name.

“The biggest thing about my dad is that he’s always trying to do things his own way,” 2nd Lt. Flowers said. “He even makes sure Junior is at the end of his name on everything. When they put my academy name on my door, it didn’t have a III on it. As soon as he saw it, he told me to go downstairs and change. Our name defines us, but we always want to make our own way.

See photos of the graduating class of 2023.


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