Nearly 29 years after retiring as an infantry officer in the Army, a veteran from Steilacoom was awarded the Order of Saint Maurice, the highest honor an infantryman can receive from the National Infantry Association, Tuesday.
Retired Col. Frank Adams, recipient of the Order of Saint Maurice, was nominated for the award by Greg Camp, president of the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Columbus, Ga. 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,” Adams said. “I (left the) 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 coffee shop in DuPont to discuss everything from politics, the Army, history and leadership.
“It’s probably one of the most rewarding professional experiences outside of work that I’ve ever had,” said Capt. Kevin Pavnia, assistant operations officer with the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. “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,” he said. “My dad was a cavalry officer in the horse cavalry. 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 JBLM, where he eventually retired. Adams served at JBLM two times, commanding a battalion here from 1976 to 1978, and again as a brigade commander from 1985 to 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,” Adams said. “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,” Adams said, “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 National Infantry Association for his military service as an infantry officer and the mentorship he continues to provide to Army leaders.
According to the National Infantry Association, 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.”
Lieutenant General Stephen R. Lanza, I Corps commanding general, headquartered at JBLM, presented the award and said, “We’re going to award the Saint Maurice to an individual who not only earned it, but lives it every day.”