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FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- The Air Force's longest serving Airman, who retired this past January after nearly 47 years of service, is also the longest serving African-American service member within the Department of Defense.

Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers recently retired from the Pentagon where he served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget for Headquarters, U.S. Air Force.

Originally from rural Jones County, North Carolina, Flowers enlisted in the Air Force shortly after graduation from high school in 1965. He began his career as a supply warehouseman at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., and after two years, transferred to the air transportation career field and was sent to Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. It was there he had the unenviable task of collecting casualties, taking both wounded and deceased soldiers out of the jungles during the middle of the night.

After his tour to Vietnam, Flowers was reassigned briefly to Norton Air Force Base where he met his future wife. Shortly after they were married, his wife, who was also in the Air Force, was reassigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. He followed several months later.

When Flowers returned to the U.S., he continued to work towards his degree, as well as retrain into the accounting field with stints in San Antonio, Texas; Charleston, S.C. and Iraklion, Greece.

Flowers finished his bachelor's degree in 1975 and a year later earned a master's degree. While at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., he was selected from promotion to master sergeant, when he was approved to attend officer training school.

In 1978, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the financial management career field and spent his first assignment as an officer at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Over the next three years he would go from deputy finance and accounting officer to accounting and finance officer to the base's budget officer.

He would begin his first stint in the Pentagon in 1985 as a budget staff officer and would go on to take the role of executive officer. After graduating from the Armed Forces Staff College, he would then go down the road to Langley, Va., in 1990 as the chief of the Air Combat Command's budget operations division.

From there he would continue his education, attending the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, where he would earn a master's degree in 1994. He would then head back to the Pentagon, this time with the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a budget officer. In 1996 he would head back to Langley this time as the ACC budget chief and promotion to colonel.

The halls of the Pentagon welcomed Flowers back in 1999, this time as director of budget programs in the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Financial Management and Comptroller. After a three-year stint, Flowers headed to San Antonio, Texas, to be the comptroller for the Air Education and Training Command. It would be during his next assignment, with the headquarters of the U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., where he would pin on his first star.

In 2007, Flowers took command of the Air Force Officer Accession and Training Schools at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and pinned on his second star in 2008 before moving to Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi as the commander of the 2nd Air Force.

In a special farewell commentary following Flowers' retirement, Brig. Gen. Joseph Ward Jr., commandant of the Joint Forces Staff College, and long time friend, said of Flowers: "I fear that he will solely be remembered for having been the longest serving Airman...but those of us who served with him must keep the spirit alive...must continue to tell his story as he passes the torch. His simple and straight forward blueprint for success is something we can all learn from...a strong work ethic coupled with an earnest desire for self improvement and a genuine concern for others while maintaining a positive attitude..."