Almost 30 years ago, an Army battalion commander told a young second lieutenant from Darlington, South Carolina, he would make sure she would never be promoted to first lieutenant because women had no place in the Army.
Twanda (Williamson) Young, MA ’92, said that negative comment, so early in her career, only deepened her determination to succeed. “I said, ‘Sir, I’ll be here when you retire.’ And lo and behold, I was there shaking his hand and saying thank you for your service when he retired.”
After decades of climbing the ranks, Young was promoted to brigadier general during a ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in December 2017, becoming one of only a few female African-American Army generals.
Young said she had never thought about joining the Army until a college friend at Claflin University, where she was earning an English degree on a full scholarship, suggested she check out ROTC. Determined she would have a job upon graduation so she wouldn’t have to move back home with her parents, she signed up for ROTC at South Carolina State University as a cross-enrollment student from Claflin.
An unexpected career path
“I didn’t initially plan on (the military) being a career, I was just happy to have a job to go to after college,” Young said. “I loved it, so I just stayed with it.”
She went on to earn her master’s degree in adult education and executive development for public service from Ball State. “My education provided a good foundation to teach, coach, and mentor others,” she said.
Over the past three decades, she’s held leadership assignments at the battalion, brigade, joint task force, and strategic command levels. She commanded the Continental U.S. Replacement Center Battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia, and the Army Reserve Theater Support Group in Fort Shafter, Hawaii. She deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and more recently was responsible for military personnel management, personnel policy development, personnel strength accounting, and readiness of the U.S. Army Reserve.
Sustaining soldiers’ well-being
Throughout her career, she said, her goal was to continually work to increase and enhance the effectiveness of the Army’s human resources programs and be approachable to staff, regardless of her rank.
In her current position, she is deputy commanding general for U.S. Army Human Resources Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky. She will assist the commanding general in executing the full spectrum of human resources programs that develop leaders, build Army readiness, and promote and sustain the well-being of soldiers, veterans, and their families.
Young said she believes the keys to her success have been the good home foundation provided by her parents, faith, and integrity to stay true to her word and never waver in doing the right thing.
“My parents taught me to live a life of purpose and those lessons continued at Ball State.”