Lieutenant General Stephen Twitty tells Local 4 News, "When most high school kids were playing during the summer time, I went off to basic training."
By his junior year of high school, Twitty had joined the Army National Guard.
"I was enjoying sports, but I just needed more."
His inspiration? An uncle who served in Vietnam and a grandfather who served in World War II.
"Used to march us around the house all the time, and sing those cadences. So, he was the first one that really impacted me in terms of military service," says Twitty.
As a lieutenant in his early 20's, and just a few months into the Army, Twitty says he had no intentions of making this a long-term career. 31 years later, he's singing a much different tune.
"In fact, I'm looking to stay an additional 31 years," Twitty says while laughing.
Some of his career highlights include leading an infantry battalion that seized Baghdad.
"I wanted to be able to jump out of planes, I wanted to blow stuff up, I wanted to be on the front line, I wanted to be leading soldiers in battle."
But after his third tour in Iraq, he realized you have to take the good with the bad.
"I keep this as a reminder that freedom is not free," says Twitty.
Losing 47 soldiers on that tour, the lieutenant general says it is a lesson that he brings with him to the Rock island Arsenal.
"Being a First Army Commander, my job is to train soldiers, get them ready to go off to work, and I take it seriously."