Lt. Col. Bryon Coward is giving Grambling State University a lot of credit for his success in life.
Coward is currently the director of inspections with the Inspector General’s Office for the 113th Wing District of Columbia Air National Guard.
The relationship between Coward and GSU has existed for some time, even before he became a student. Members of his immediate family were heavily involved with the university as a child.
“My parents were teachers and Grambling alumni,” said Coward. “We lived on ‘teacher’s row’ where other teachers, who were also HBCU graduates, built their homes. They were our neighbors, church members, babysitters, teachers and coaches. We would actually carpool to football games and homecomings.”
Not only did Coward enjoy watching football, he loved to play just as much.
“All three of my older brothers attended HBCUs,” said Coward. “I would sit at home and thumb through all of their yearbooks. By the time I was 10 years old, I knew the name and purpose of every building on campus. I attended football camps and summer academic programs [at Grambling] while in grade school.”
Coward had a front row seat, a glimpse or a peek into a world of Black excellence.
“Looking back, the first thing to seep in was programming to give in to a sense of futility and hate for yourself, simply because of color,” said Coward.
“Grambling was my counterbalance to that. When I went there as a child, I saw people who looked like me, doing amazing things. Therefore, I knew there was a place where success existed, and, in my mind, I could not get to Grambling fast enough.”
Finally, in 1998, he enrolled at Grambling State as an incoming freshman, primarily eager to be a top performing student, academically.
“When I became a Grambling student, I went full throttle,” said Coward. “I just didn’t want to be a number. I wanted the highest grades and to be in student leadership positions. I knew what I wanted, and I committed to being the best at it. Grambling was my university, and I would be Grambling.”
As Coward set out to be his best self, he also had to make some difficult, yet practical decisions. .
“As much as I loved playing football and considered walking on, I found something more exciting with a more realistic end goal: prepare, graduate and get out into the global war fight as a professional airman,” said Coward. “More importantly, I wanted to be the best person my family, all those folks on ‘teachers row,’ and my professors knew coming from their institution.”
According to DVIDS he praises the training he received while in Grambling’s Air Force ROTC program and says what he learned in the program extended into his career.
“Grambling, like most HBCUs, gives you what you need and not what you think you want. That’s a life lesson, and, in perspective, you are grateful for the blessings you have,” said Coward. “Just like in the military, you may not have enough people, funding or equipment, but you still have to complete the mission.”
Coward assembled the first deployment and distribution flight when he was a logistics officer. Now, he is developing a readiness exercise as the new director of inspectors.
“I didn’t do any of these things by myself. The DCNG, soldiers and airmen, guided, assisted me; I was just the one responsible and had to lead,” said Coward. “My dean at Grambling told us, ‘We stand tall on the shoulders of giants.’ Now it’s my time to be a giant that someone can stand tall on and prepare them to embrace the challenges.”