KSLA Salutes: Air National Guardsman credits Grambling for his success
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Lt. Col. Byron Coward, a graduate of Grambling State University, is the director of inspections with the Inspector General’s Office, 113th Wing, District of Columbia Air National Guard.
“It’s evaluating, verifying and validating unit self assessment programs,” Coward said. “It’s basically about compliance. If you are ready to go to war, our question is how do you know. In order to execute your weapons system or whatever you need to do, we validate that it works, that your policies and processes operate the way they are supposed to. I deal with inspections and exercises of the units.”
Before being the director of inspections, Coward was the state public affairs officer for the District of Columbia National Guard for two and a half years, a Logistics Readiness Officer moving people and cargo and coordinating deployments while providing everyone on the flight line what they need, and as a Wing Executive Officer for the Wing Commander in DC.
Coward graduated from Grambling in 2002. He stayed for another year at the Air Force ROTC as an ADD officer helping with recruitment. He also worked with Detachment 305 at Louisiana Tech doing the same work.
From there, he went to Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi and was placed in the Public Affairs Office before going to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland working in the Air Force’s OSI Criminal Investigative Division and Public Affairs before moving to the 113th Wing, District of Columbia Air National Guard.
“I’m getting to see everything the Wing gets to do from logistics to maintenance to operations to medical,” Coward said. “Working inside the base and working with the commander and higher headquarters. In the National Guard, you have your Wing, you have your operational unit, your tactical unit and then you have a headquarters. It gives you a different perspective of how things work.”
Coward worked in that capacity for two years before going to Squadron Officer school. His commander asked him if he was interested in logistics, which Coward said he was. He was then placed in the logistics squadron as a logistics officer, where he says he learned how air power operates.
“You see the jets, you see the people but many don’t get to see the logistics behind it,” Coward said. “Being in that environment was awesome. I really got involved in it. I pushed cargo on to aircraft from C-130′s to C-17′s to C-5′s. I’ve put people on them. I’ve pushed cargo off of them. Air Force and global logistics doesn’t stop. So I worked in that for another two to three years in deployment distribution before I got a call from state headquarters asking if I would like to be the state public affairs officer. I said absolutely. So I got back into public affairs after a two, three year break and it was a wild ride really staying on top on Army and Air units, military police, transportation and surface maintenance. Learning more about the DC National Guard, getting back to writing article and issuing press releases, dealing with media inquires and things of that nature before getting the call asking if I would like to work as the Director of Inspections in the IG Office.”
Coward says his experiences at Grambling helped shape him into the person he is today.
“It was great,” Coward said. “I was very fortunate. My parents went to Grambling. They actually met there. They got married and had four boys, me being the youngest. All of us went to Grambling as well. HBCUs are so important. It was a place where I saw people that looked like me be successful and a lot of it is emulation; what do you see. Every Saturday we went to the home football games and you learned about Jackson University, Southern University, Prairie View, Texas Southern and Mississippi Valley. These were places of distinction where people who looked like you were successful and did great things. It was a no brainer for me to attend. When I got there in 1998 I already knew the lay of the land. I also knew I wanted to be in the Air Force. I’ve always loved airplanes ever since I was a kid. At the time Grambling had Air Force ROTC Detachment 311. I remember the first day of my summer session, I went in and talked to the captain at the time. I told him I wanted to be an Air Force officer and he told me I made the right decision, told me to come back in the fall and register for these classes and the rest is history.”
Coward majored in Public Administration and Aerospace Studies. He credits Grambling State University for preparing him for success in his various military occupations, from when he was a logistics officer, where he organized the first deployment and distribution flight to now, as the director of inspections, organizing readiness exercises.
“It was the right size, the right place, the right time for me,” Coward said. “I learned a lot and president, vice president, the professors all the way down were so invested in me and wanted to see me succeed and it wasn’t just me. It was everyone on that campus. They wanted to see us succeed. That also goes into what I do here - it’s the I care and we all do this together mentality and attitude. My dean at Grambling told us, ‘We stand tall on the shoulders of giants.’ Now it’s my time to be a giant that someone can stand tall on and prepare them to embrace the challenges.”
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