Nov 10, 2020

Three decades of military service impart life lessons and invaluable experiences

PPL has established business resource groups in both Pennsylvania and Kentucky dedicated to supporting military veterans. In addition, PPL’s subsidiaries Louisville Gas and Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities Company are 2019 recipients of the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. The award is the highest honor given by the U.S. Department of Defense to employers for support of National Guard and Reserve employees.

On Veterans Day, we’re honored to highlight the service and journey of Shon Adams, manager of Inclusion and Employee Engagement at LG&E and KU. Over more than three decades of military service, Adams became the first Black active duty guardsman (Kentucky Army National Guard) to be promoted to the rank of colonel and he graduated from the United States Army War College, a course that less than 1% of the officer corps is selected to attend.

With less than 1% of Americans serving in the military, I have to ask myself, why do people join? You may hear some say it’s for the benefits, or their family has a history of service. For some, it’s about escaping a negative environment or bettering themselves. Even more may be compelled by an event, such as 9/11, that stirred a calling in them to do something greater — serve their country. No matter what the reason, military service provides life experiences that you wouldn’t get anywhere else — and those life experiences translate into essential skills that make veterans strong leaders and team members long after their service has ended.

My motivation to join the military stems from a couple of things. First, I grew up an Army brat — moving to countless states across the U.S. and even spending three years in Germany. My father, grandfather and great uncle all served in the Army and learning about their service played a significant role in my joining the military. Also, growing up, I was drawn to books, stories and movies about the United States Cavalry, a branch of the Army, and I knew that I wanted to join.

While still in high school, I enlisted in the Army Reserve and after two years, I joined the Army National Guard as a cavalry scout. After almost five years as an enlisted soldier, I commissioned as an officer in 1992. For the first 10 years of my service, I was a traditional guardsman, serving one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer. In 1999, I left law enforcement to start a new career as an active duty guardsman with the Kentucky Army National Guard, where I remained until I retired in early 2019 – after almost 32 years of service.

Throughout my active duty career, I held a variety of leadership and staff positions. I was deployed overseas four times and completed several training missions. My military work took me to Saudi Arabia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, I have spent time in Panama, Djibouti, Germany and a vast majority of the 54 U.S. states and territories. During my service, two assignments really made an impact on me and defined the leadership skills that I still lean on today.

The first was in early 2001. I was a Military Police company commander, and my unit deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a peacekeeping mission in support of OPERATION JOINT FORGE. After eight months, we returned to the U.S. on Sept. 10, 2001, around 8:30 p.m. I recall flying over the twin towers in New York City that night and knowing that I made it back home – it was about 14 hours later that those towers fell in the tragic events of 9/11.

The second memorable assignment was 10 years later, in 2011, when I was deployed to Iraq as a Military Police battalion commander. I was the garrison commander (mayor) of contingency operating site Taji with the responsibility of training and transitioning the base to the United States Department of State. I learned so much about the importance of leadership, perseverance and resiliency through that experience and deployment.

After spending almost three decades in uniform, I continue to feel a sense of pride about my time spent in the military. Military service is not for the faint of heart. It’s not easy, the work is hard and, over the past 20 years, I have spent a lot of time away from home. But, the bonds made during one’s time in the military and skills gained is something you can’t replicate in civilian life, as it is forged in common experiences that only those who serve can understand.

Today, I still draw on those experiences in my civilian career. The principles that we learned in the Army – Be. Know. Do. – have stayed with me. Those three words stand for: Be loyal, be committed, be dependable. Know your job and the skills it takes to do your job. Do the right thing for the right reasons. It’s these character-building skills and strong work ethic that make veterans an asset to civilian businesses.

In the end, I found what motivated me to serve were the same opportunities and experiences that kept me in the military so long. I continued to serve because of the volunteerism, service, commitment and the sense of duty to the Commonwealth of Kentucky and my country. For me, Veterans Day is not only a day of remembrance, but a day to reflect on the commitment and sacrifices of those I’ve served with and to all who’ve worn the uniform of this nation.