Wednesday, Nov 3, 2021
Alfred K. Flowers Jr. ‘95, ‘97 becomes the first Black chief of the Medical Service Corps
by Adam Grybowski
Alfred K. Flowers Jr. ‘95, ‘97 was appointed brigadier general of the U.S. Air Force on Sept. 7 during a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The promotion, which followed Flowers’ nomination by President Joe Biden in April, burnishes a longstanding family legacy of serving the nation (Flowers’ father, retired Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers Sr., is the longest-serving Airman in U.S. Air Force history).
With the promotion, Flowers became the first Black chief of the Medical Service Corps and director of manpower, personnel and resources in the Office of the Air Force Surgeon General. Previously, as colonel, he had already become the nation’s first command surgeon for Space Operations Command.
Flowers says the influence of his father's philosophy has guided him throughout his 24-year career. "I can distill that philosophy down to doing your best every day, taking care of others and having a great attitude," he says. "I've been able to rely on that rubric. When I’ve done all those things, opportunities have been afforded to me. When they don’t line up, there has often been a failing."
Growing up in Northern Virginia, Flowers was recruited to play basketball out of high school. Only through a serendipitous trip to Lawrenceville did he end up becoming a Bronc and playing as a forward/center on what would become a storied team in Rider basketball history, including participating in perhaps most memorable moment ever in NEC history, when a last-second jump shot sent the Broncs to the NCAA tournament in 1994.
"I made a last-second recruiting trip to Rider and fell in love," he says. "The business program had a great reputation and the basketball program had the energy of a young coach.”'
More than two decades later, that coach, Kevin Bannon, was present to see his one-time player receive his promotion in front of the Washington Monument.
Aside from the joy and camaraderie of playing basketball (Flowers says he and his teammates stay in touch weekly to this day), being a student-athlete taught Flowers lessons that have reverberated throughout his career. "The commitment, the nurturing, the struggles, the dedication, the focus — I learned all of that from being a collegiate athlete," he says.
Although he now sees serving in the military as his "higher calling," Flowers’ career aspirations didn't always align with following in his father's footsteps. He considered becoming a state trooper or, as his undergraduate degree in finance and graduate degree in health and community service administration reflect, working in health care or finance.
"I always had something special with that military connection, which was always in front of me as an option, but I was considering other things as well," says Flowers, whose mother and father both served in the Air Force. “But the military has been the center of my life, and I decided I wanted to follow that path of a noble profession.”
He chose to join the Air Force’s Medical Service Corps, graduating from Commissioned Officer Training School in 1997. Before attaining his current rank, he served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and as the command surgeon for Space Operations Command. In his new role, he is the Air Force's senior healthcare administrator, reporting to a three-star general.
During the recent promotion ceremony, Flowers Sr. was on stage to pin his son’s first star on his uniform along with Flowers’ two sons, both cadets (Kendell at the U.S. Air Force Academy and Ayden at Texas A&M Corps of Cadets). The family legacy will not stop with Alfred. Like him, his sons came to serving on their own.
“We would have been supportive one way or the other,” Flowers says. “But it’s a little easier when you’re making your own decisions. If you ask them, they wouldn’t do it any differently. They look forward to serving.”