Command Sergeant Major Anthony McAdoo likes to talk about stories and fate – “Everything happens for a reason,” he says – and how no script could have been written that was better than the journey he took to where he is today.
Where he is, in fact, is in the position of command sergeant major for the Army Human Resources Command (HRC). But among the steps he took to get there, he mentions a kid who didn’t want to be in the Army but who did want to make something of his life.
He talks about someone who wanted to go in one direction, but was not able to due to being colorblind.
And, he talks about how his competitive nature – against others and against himself – made him succeed despite being thwarted from his original goals.
When first entering the Army, his original career path was to be an "engineer," or what he thought an engineer was.
He thought being an engineer was what most people would think: Drawing and drafting plans. But in the Army, and engineer is an infantryman who prepares a battlefield for the soldiers who come afterward.
Then, he figured out he was colorblind, and he had to be transferred to another job.
“That’s why I’m in the HRC. Because I’m colorblind,” he says.
It’s a simplification, but one he uses to teach a lesson. Everything happens for a reason, but if the path in front of you is changed, focus on the new path. “And you will be just as successful in that other lane as you would have been in the original lane,” he said.
McAdoo is a Somerset native and a 1992 graduate of Somerset High School. As a 12-year-old, he ran a newspaper route, getting his start at the place where his mother, Mary McAdoo, worked – the Commonwealth Journal.
On a trip through the newspaper’s building after listening in on an interview between her son and a reporter, Mary McAdoo glances around the rooms and talks about who worked where, and mentions her old, large dictionary that aided her in her work as a copy editor.
She worked at the Commonwealth Journal for 15 years, from 1974 to 1989. “When I left, there were people saying ‘Your ghost haunts halls down there,’” she laughed.
Anthony McAdoo remembers living just a few blocks away, at the top of the hill on Vine Street.
“I’d either ride my bike or scooter down here to get the papers, and then deliver them here within the vicinity,” he said.
A little later, he started working at the local McDonalds. He admitted that at that point he didn’t really know what he wanted to do in his life. He did have one thought, though. He knew he didn’t want to go into the military.
“In my senior year, probably two to three months prior to graduation, I remember specifically saying, ‘I’m not going to no military. I’m not going to the military.’ And then, I just continued to think, as school continued to go on, ‘If I don’t go to the military, what am I going to do?’
“… I started thinking, ‘Okay, you need to do something with your life. What are you going to do?’ I knew absolutely nothing about the military.”
The only information he had about the military was from what his father, Rev. Joseph McAdoo, told him, and it was not a glowing report.
Mary McAdoo explained that Joseph was drafted into the Army.
“He went to Texas for his training, and it was during the Vietnam era. He said there were two planes leaving, one was going to Vietnam, and the other was going to Alaska. So, he went to Alaska.”
Anthony McAdoo recalls, “When I was growing up as a child, nothing about him said ‘military’ to me.”
“No, and he hated it,” Mary said.
When a young Anthony McAdoo started considering the military, he said he went down to the strip of recruiting offices, just off of Parkers Mill Road, and looked at his options.
“I’m looking at the Navy. Well, that’s water. I cannot swim. Air Force: Never been in a plane, don’t want to be in a plane, they fall out of the sky. The Marines: I had no clue what the marines were. But the Army, I watched G.I. Joe and all the stuff like that, so I thought, ‘They stay on the ground, let’s go ahead and try that.’”
Among the slew of different trainings and courses McAdoo has taken over the course of his Army career, there were a couple that most definitely did not keep him on the ground.
He took his turn at going through air assault training – rappelling out of helicopters – and airborne training – jumping out of planes with parachutes.
“I will tell you, I am not a fan of heights. Not a fan at all,” he said.
The problem is, however, he is competitive, both against others and against himself. When he began air assault training, he admits he was scared.
“When I went up on this high tower, I am shaking. I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ But my pride, and me competing against myself, I’m like, ‘I’m going to do this because I think I can do it.’”
The exact same thing happened in airborne school, he said. He didn’t want to do it, but he forced himself to. He said he remembers the events leading up to his first jump out of a plane, and all the places he expected to get scared: Walking up to the plane, getting on it, taking off, when the doors opened.
At every stage, however, he ended up being fine. Part of that, he said, was because he knew there were other people on that plane preparing to jump, so when it came time to leave the plane, he knew they were all going to go out together.
That sense of camaraderie, of knowing he was a part of a group who was all working toward the same goals, is one he appreciated when it came to his tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“The experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq both times, they were stressful, but the thing that gets all of us through is that we are not there by ourselves. We know we are there with everyone else, going through the same thing that we are…. As long as we are following the exact same rule or regulation, everyone is on the same page.”
Even if that other person is his own sister.
McAdoo said that the competitive spirit in both he and his sister, Stephanie McAdoo-Duff, often led to a rivalry between between the both of them.
They are 16 months apart in age, so when Anthony was starting his career in the Army, Stephanie was just finishing up high school.
She went to college, but it wasn’t working out, and so instead she decided to join the Army Reserve.
“What was funny about it, when I was in Germany, she actually came to Germany to see me, and she ended up staying with me for a while. Obviously we are competitive and get into arguments and stuff, so she says ‘I’m going to active duty,’ and I said ‘Good, go to active duty’… When I came back from Germany I was stationed in Fort Campbell. And guess who else gets stationed at Fort Campbell? My sister.”
Their Army careers continued to run parallel. In the first Operation Iraqi Freedom campaign, Anthony McAdoo was part of an artillery unit. His sister was assigned to a support unit.
Support units, Anthony McAdoo explained, are there to help other units such as artillery units.
“We have four or five different brigades within the division, so in a support unit they have to support different brigades. Guess who is supporting the brigade that I’m in? Her unit.
"… What was crazy is that I could go a mile, two miles down the road where she was at and see her doing deployment. And we would see each other during deployment. Probably not a great thing for my mom, because we were her only two kids, but for us, knowing that each one of us was there, even with as much bickering and arguing as we did, we were there for each other.”
According to their mother, no, it was not great for her.
“It was hard. … It was stressful. You’ve got two kids basically within walking distance of each other. And if something happened – a bomb or whatever – it would take them both out. And them being the only two children I have, it was definitely a hard time,” she said.
Still, she said she was proud of both of her children.
“Usually when you have children, there’s a bad one out of the bunch. But I’m lucky, I have the two and I can honestly say I have two children who have really made me proud. They are productive members of society, and I’m proud to say that I’m their mom. They’ve not given me any reason to be ashamed of them.”
Anthony McAdoo – perhaps begrudgingly – admits he’s proud of his sister, too.
Stephanie McAdoo-Duff is also a sergeant major, currently stationed in Korea.
“She will talk a lot, but when it comes time to do things, she will do it to the best of her ability. And that is why she has also progressed in the ranks of the Army.”
His sister is also partly responsible for another aspect of his life, helping him to meet his wife.
McAdoo’s sister was friends with the sister of a woman from New York named Bevin.
The women would talk back and forth, he said.
“And the next thing you know, me and [Bevin] started talking. Fast forward to now, and we are obviously married. Got married a few years ago. It was a big change for her coming, from the New York area, not having any experience with the military, and then coming in to where your spouse is a high-ranked person in the army.”
McAdoo also has two daughters, Kiana and Alesha.
Alesha is preparing to graduate high school and go to the University of Memphis. Kiana is in Arkansas going to school to be a culinary artist.
McAdoo himself has only been in his new position as command sergeant major for the HRC for a couple of months, but he said he is enjoying it.
Human resources is about putting the human factor into working with the Army’s personnel. McAdoo said that falls in line well with the Human Resources Command’s motto, “Soldiers first.”
He said that in his short time in the position, he has already seen several instances in which personnel are “owning” that motto.
“I always tell them, in the business we are in, every decision that you make affects every single person in the Army. Also, when you’re making a decision about something, how about you turn the desk around and put yourself on the other side.”
He said he is well aware of the weight of his position, where every decision he makes can affect every single person within the Army.
He's also aware of the social unrest that exists in the civilian world right now, and believes the Army is well equipped to prevent it from taking hold within the military.
“We actively put things in place,” he said. “We have what we call active listening sessions. We have junior soldiers or junior professionals coming to talk with senior leaders. We have all types of sessions so that they know ‘The stuff you’re seeing is not allowed in our formation.’
“Our biggest thing is to understand that everyone comes from all walks of life, but you’ve got to understand we are all one family here. The stuff you see out there on the street, that’s not what we are representative of. It’s people first. It’s soldiers first. It’s not this specific group or that specific group.”
He added that it’s about not being blind to the fact that incidents can happen, not saying that “that’s not in our formation” but actively seeing that if it does happen, it's taken care of.
“Once we actively find that, we absolutely take corrective action, whether it’s counseling, whether it’s even releasing them from the military. We want to continue to let our soldiers and personnel know within our formation, if it’s not right or you don’t think its right, talk to someone.”