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When Capt. Guster Cunningham III decided to transition his 19-year Army career from a noncommissioned officer to an Armor officer, he knew his Family would support him.
However, he was surprised to learn that his oldest son, 2nd Lt. Guster Cunningham IV, was eager to follow in his footsteps.
The two are currently students in Maneuver Center of Excellence leader courses, with the elder Cunningham attending the Maneuver Captains Career course and the younger attending the Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course.
Enlisting in the Army in 1989 as a combat medic, the 45-year-old husband and father of three said he joined to provide a stable future for his Family. He followed the military lineage of his grandfather, who fought in World War I, and father and two uncles, who served in the Korean War.
"I just wanted a better lifestyle coming from Los Angeles and I didn't want to have to work two jobs and support a Family at the same time," he said. "After being introduced to the Army in high school, the opportunity presented itself for me to join and better my life."
Cunningham has served as a flight medic and an equal opportunity advisor before attending Officer Candidate School and transitioning to the Armor School. His first duty station was as an Armor officer with 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. He served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2010 and Operation New Dawn before he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 81st Armor Regiment, where he served as a troop executive officer and company commander.
"I've always liked to challenge myself with new tasks, and got as far as sergeant first class in the medic field and I wanted to challenge myself with my first step as a platoon leader," he said.
The younger Cunningham, 22, said he decided to join the Army for career stability. He commissioned as an officer through his Reserve Officers' Training Corps program upon graduating from University of Hawaii in December 2013.
"I never imagined that my son would join the Army, much less be branched Armor out of ROTC," the elder Cunningham said. "It just happened by God's grace that we became students here at the same time. The neat thing is when we go places together, people ask if he's my brother or my twin - the Army keeps me young." The younger Cunningham said having his father nearby for support gives him a unique advantage.
"Since he is an Armor officer and has gone through similar tasks, it helps to have him here as a resource," he said.
Upon graduating from ABOLC, the younger Cunningham will be assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Carson, Colorado, and plans to attend the Army Reconnaissance and Armor Leaders courses and eventually Ranger School.
"I'm always trying to be number one at everything, I don't want to be standard leader," he said. "I want to be the most competent, prepared, strong and fit individual so that I can better myself and my platoon when I go to my unit." After completing MCCC in October, the elder Cunningham will become a public affairs officer.
His second oldest son, Derrick, is currently an 11C Infantry mortarman with the Texas Army National Guard. Cunningham said the Army has helped him to become a better leader for his Family and throughout his career.
"The Army has been good to me," he said. "I'm sure it will be good to my sons as well."