By Staff Sgt. Bryan Dominique, I Corps Public Affairs
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Nearly 29 years after retiring as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army, a local Steilacoom Army Vet was awarded the Order of Saint Maurice, the highest honor an infantryman can receive from the National Infantry Association, Tuesday.
Col(r) Frank Adams, recipient of the Order of St. Maurice, was nominated for the award by Greg Camp, President of the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus, Georgia. Camp said he nominated Adams for the role he played as his mentor when they served together at JBLM and his continued work as a mentor for the generation of young military leaders today.
“This is a very special honor, and one that was unexpected,” said Adams. “I [left] University of Arizona in July 1960 and reported to Fort Benning, [Georgia] for Basic Course, Airborne, Ranger, and I never looked back. It’s been a wonderful series of adventures. The highlight of it all is working with Soldiers.”
Every Saturday Adams brings current and former Army officers together at a local coffee shop in DuPont, Washington, to discuss everything from politics and the Army to history and leadership.
“It’s probably one of the most rewarding professional experiences outside of work that I’ve ever had,” said Cpt. Kevin Pavnia, assistant operations officer with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment. “Frank represents decades of experience and sound judgment. As the Army’s changed, he represents those constants that stay the same, and he transmits it to us as a kind of continuity between generations of talented officers.”
Like most officers, Adams’ first time to JBLM was as a cadet for the Leader Development Assessment Course. Here, cadets learn about the different branches of the Army and identify the fields they would like to commission into.
“I was born into an Army family. My dad was a cavalry officer in the horse cavalry, he said. “I guess that’s where my interest in the Army started…. I came to the [Leader Development Course] here at Fort Lewis in 1959; that was my first time here.”
His career brought him to the front lines of the Vietnam War on three separate occasions, to the halls of the Pentagon, and back to Washington’s own Joint Base Lewis-McChord – then known as Fort Lewis – where he eventually retired. Adams served at JBLM two times, commanding a battalion here from 1976-1978, and again as a brigade commander from 1985-1987.
After 28 years of military service, Adams retired to Steilacoom in 1988.
“We enjoyed it here, and we wanted to be close to Soldiers, so it worked out perfectly,” he said.
About three years into retirement, Adams began his coffee group with just two people.
“Twenty-five years ago I started a coffee group, [where] we would meet and talk about politics and the Army,” said Adams. “A lieutenant who was one of the fellow’s sons-in-law joined us, and we enjoyed having him so much.”
Likely unbeknown to the lieutenant at the time – who Adams described as a young signal officer – his presence at that meeting and words of encouragement led to the mentoring group Adams leads today.
“He encouraged us so much,” said Adams, “He [told me] ‘I get so much out of listening to you guys talk about the Army, you should get some more [young officers] involved.’ So that started the effort, and we’ve been doing that ever since.”
Adams was selected by the NIA for his military service as an infantry officer and the mentorship he continues to provide to Army leaders.
According to the NIA, the Order of Saint Maurice has five distinct levels and a nominee “must have served in the infantry with distinction, demonstrated a significant contribution in support of the infantry, and must represent the highest standards of integrity, moral character, professional competence, and dedication to duty.”
Lt. Gen. Steve Lanza, the commanding general of I Corps, headquartered at JBLM, presented the award, saying “We’re going to award the Saint Maurice to an individual who not only earned it, but lives it every day.”