“Perfect People”: Living The West Point Ideal

Lloyd J. Austin III


General Lloyd J. Austin III was born in Mobile, Alabama, but grew up in Thomasville, Georgia in the 1960s with his five other siblings. As a Catholic, he strongly considered attending Notre Dame, but instead selected the United States Military Academy, joining the Class of 1975. On his way to West Point, New York City was a culture shock, and heading north out of the city provided short-lived relief. His first impression of the Academy was of the “perfect people” he saw everywhere. The immaculate upperclassmen inspired a sense of awe, and he was wondering if he was facing four years of R-Day. He quickly fell into the routine of the Academy, and although he initially struggled academically, he persevered. He tried track, but eventually dropped that to focus on academics, and eventually gravitated to the rugby team. He credits support from mentors and classmates as helping him get through West Point, and his senior year he was the company commander of G1. He selected the Infantry branch, and after graduation he was stationed in Germany. The hollow Army of the late 70s and early 80s provided a leadership challenge, but good NCOs set a good example. After returning from Germany, he was stationed at Fort Bragg, where he became a company commander. In this interview, the first in what will be a series, he describes his childhood, his years at West Point, and his career in the Army through his time as a company commander. He discusses his mentors throughout his early years, including classmates, senior Cadets, Officers at West Point, and leaders in the Army who provided inspiration and positive examples. Throughout the interview, he discusses his challenges and his successes.


name Lloyd J. Austin III
institution USMA
graduation year 1975
service Infantry
unit 1st BN, 7th Infantry, 3rd ID; 2nd BN, 508th IN, 82nd ABN DIV
service dates 1975 2016