JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Maj. Gen. A.J. Stewart, who had an illustrious 32-year military career, most recently as the commander of Air Force Personnel Center, died March 9. He was 55.
Stewart lost his battle with brain cancer, which he fought for more than two years. He wrote openly about his battle in a highly publicized commentary "Never saw this coming: Lessons learned in trying times," published March 12, 2012.
During his career, the general was driven to create a better Air Force for all Airmen. His passion for military service, integrity and excellence was reflected in his daily actions. He often remarked that his steadfast commitment to serve was ignited every time he looked at the American flag.
A beloved military leader and sought-after speaker, Stewart captured the hearts and minds of his audiences with his vivid stories and candid references about the military, his career and life lessons.
Stewart began his military career as an Air Force Academy cadet, graduating in 1981 and going on to become a mobility pilot, flying the KC-135 Stratotanker and the C-17 Globemaster, among others. He logged more than 3,000 flying hours, according to his Air Force biography.
Throughout his career, Stewart commanded an air refueling squadron, an operations group and a flying training wing. He flew air refueling missions in support of the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada in 1983 and deployed to Southwest Asia in support of Saudi Arabia during the Iran and Iraq war in 1985. He also deployed as Combined Air Operations Center director of Mobility Forces in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In June 2008, he came to JBSA-Randolph and took command of Air Force Recruiting Service, Air Education and Training Command, where he was responsible for more than 2,600 Airmen and civilians in more than 1,200 recruiting offices across the United States and abroad.
Stewart epitomized the recruiting spirit as he frequently lauded the Air Force's emphasis on quality of character and quality of effort.
"If you want to be a part of something special, if you want to go as far as you can possibly go in an unconstrained environment, there's nothing else like it. It's a phenomenal service," he said.
In August 2010, Stewart took over as commander of AFPC, where he oversaw 10 subordinate units and more than 3,600 personnel responsible for operations of Airmen and their family members.
Stewart commanded AFPC at a time when significant personnel initiatives were under way. Those included transforming personnel services delivery for the total force, merging three commands into a single integrated organization and managing the force to meet congressionally mandated end strength.
The general believed in being fit, healthy and strong. He was an active member of the Air Force Cycling Team and rode with the team in 2011 and 2012 at Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. However, his true passion was golfing. He golfed every weekend and often found solace from a difficult day on the links in the early evenings.
His military honors and decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit and Defense Meritorious Service medal.
Stewart was born March 6, 1959, in rural Dinwiddie County, Va. and was raised in Baltimore by a single mother who checked his homework each night, kept books in the house and attended parent-teacher meetings, he said in an Air Force video in December 2011.
Growing up with a working mother and three sisters, he found male role models through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. Later in life, he became an advocate for that program, frequently remarking on the positive impact BBBS had on his early life.
According to Stewart, his life changed at age 16 when an Air Force Academy recruiting team visited his high school. He knew from that day forward he wanted to serve his country as an Airman.
"We have the world's most respected and feared Air Force. The secret to our success is not in our hardware or software, but it is our Airmen," said the general in 2010.
Stewart is survived by his wife, Areetha Carter-Stewart; two sons; Brian Vincent Stewart and John Calvin Stewart, II; his mother, Sandra Stewart; his stepmother, Lillian Stewart; and four sisters: Gwen Williamson, Dawn Stewart, Tracy Stewart and Lisa Campbell. He is preceded in death by his father, John C. Stewart.
A celebration of his life will be held March 24, beginning at 9:45 a.m. with a military flyover, at the Community Bible Church, 2477 North Loop 1604 East, San Antonio. In lieu of cards and flowers, donations in General Stewart's memory may be made to the American Brain Tumor Association (http://hope.abta.org/goto/AJStewart).