83rd Troop Command’s Calhoun promoted to brigadier general

Written by  //  September 26, 2011  //  Feature Stories

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 26, 2011) – Brig. Gen. Michael Calhoun has made history.

When the 58-year-old Florida Army National Guard Soldier pinned on his silver stars Friday afternoon during a ceremony in South Florida, he became the first African-American in the history of the Florida National Guard to attain the rank of a general officer.

Newly promoted Brig. Gen. Michael Calhoun (center) receives congratulations from his wife Sophia and the Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw (right) during a military promotion ceremony at the Calaway Armory in West Palm Beach, Fla., this afternoon. Brig. Gen. Calhoun is the commander of the 83rd Troop Command and has served in the Florida National Guard for more than 30 years. Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

“Being the first is a tremendous accomplishment for me,” Calhoun said of the promotion. “After nearly 450 years of military history in Florida, it is humbling to reach this point. By no means am I the only or the best qualified person for this achievement.”

Calhoun, who leads the Tallahassee-based 83rd Troop Command, became the fifth brigadier general currently serving in the Florida National Guard.

“Through all of his assignments (Calhoun) grew in leadership potential, and he clearly demonstrated that potential to lead in the Florida National Guard at the general officer level,” said Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Emmett Titshaw.

Titshaw joined Calhoun’s family – including his wife Sophia, father, and sister – in pinning the rank on the new general at the Callaway Armory in West Palm Beach.

Calhoun said it was fitting to hold the ceremony in West Palm Beach since he began his National Guard career there more than 30 years ago; he served as a private in the 1st Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, at another armory in West Palm Beach, but by the time he made the rank of sergeant in the early 80’s he actually helped his unit move into the Callaway Armory.

“To have served in this building as a sergeant, and now walk back in as a general officer, is amazing,” Calhoun said, reflecting on his career in the Guard. “Who would have thought?”

His record as a National Guard Soldier is impressive; after a break in service from 1983 to 1989, he received a direct commission to second lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps, and served as a Pharmacy Officer with the 131st Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. Through his career he has commanded: A Company, 161st Area Support Medical Battalion; 856th Quartermaster Battalion; 53rd Infantry Brigade Special Troops Battalion; 211th Regional Training Institute; and the 50th Area Support Group (ASG).

In addition to a Bachelor of Science Degree in Pharmacy from Florida A&M University, Calhoun holds a Master’s Degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

In 2004 he deployed with the 50th ASG to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and returned to Florida after the deployment in time to support relief operations for one of the Southeast’s most destructive hurricane seasons. In 2005 he served as a Florida National Guard Deputy Commander of Task Forces in Florida and Mississippi following Hurricanes, Dennis, Katrina, Wilma and Rita.

Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffery Young of the 83rd Troop Command (right) exchanges the traditional one-star general's flag with Brig. Gen. Michael Calhoun, during the promotion ceremony at the Callaway Armory in West Palm Beach, Fla., Sept. 23, 2011. Calhoun is the Commander of the 83rd Troop Command. Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

Calhoun is a Registered Consultant Pharmacist working at Costco Pharmacy, and lives in Lake Worth, Fla., with his wife Sophia.

Calhoun credited his successes in his civilian and military careers to the discipline and structure of the National Guard, and said he advocates serving as a citizen-Soldier to any young person thinking about a military career.

“This is an excellent organization from the standpoint of what it brings to the civilian communities, as well as supporting the national strategic objective,” he said. “You don’t get a playbook for success, and the National Guard and the Army provides you with the structure. If you prosper within this structure it will give you a blueprint you can use in the civilian world.

“It gave me tools for success, focus, and the ability to prioritize,” Calhoun added.

He said one of his regrets was leaving the National Guard for six years in the 1980s to focus more on his civilian career.

“I didn’t realize there would be such a yearning – a call – to come back,” he said. “It keeps you focused, and gives you a level of focus and energy that you can use in the civilian career.”

The brigadier general also thanked the men and women of the 83rd Troop Command for allowing him to have the promotion ceremony in South Florida instead of Tallahassee, adding that the venue gave many of his family members the opportunity to attend and “meet his military family.”