Pvt. Tyrice Melvin, who graduated Basic Combat Training, shakes hands with Maj. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr., 10th Mountain Division commander, after his unit's graduation July 28. Melvin and Beagle met each other on board a plane flight from Germany. Beagle once commanded Fort Jackson and the Army Training Center. (Photo Credit: Nathan Clinebelle)

Soldier, major general reunite at graduation

By Robert Timmons, Fort Jackson Public Affairs
Sometimes a chance encounter will have unexpected outcomes.

For Pvt. Tyrice Melvin, who graduated Basic Combat Training July 28 a conversation on an airplane with a stranger paid off in a strange way. Melvin was on his way to Fort Jackson to attend Basic Combat Training when we struck up a conversation about his travel plans with the person next to him.

The person sitting next to Melvin knew a thing or two about training on Fort Jackson. It was Maj. Gen. Milford H. “Beags” Beagle Jr., commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division and former Fort Jackson and Army Training Center commander.

“I was returning from Germany from a conference,” Beagle told the Family members, veterans, and other attendees at the 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment graduation. “As I am walking to the back of the plane my only thought was, ‘Please don’t let me have a middle seat.’”

He didn’t have a middle seat, but a young man, who turned out to be Melvin, asked him to change seat, to which Beagle politely declined.

It was Melvin’s first plane flight by himself, and he was admittedly nervous. "I walk on the plane and see the middle seat and I was praying 'Don't be me,'" the new graduate said after the ceremony.

They struck up a conversation that led Melvin to state he was heading the Fort Jackson for basic training. A topic Beagle knew a lot about since he not only was Fort Jackson’s senior commander, but a former 193rd Infantry Brigade commander.

“I said I could probably tell you a thing or two about South Carolina and basic training if you care to listen, and he did,” Beagle added. Beagle handed Melvin a note stating not to read it until he got to Fort Jackson.

They would take a selfie together and “46,000 like later people said, ‘now you gotta speak at his graduation. You’ve got to close that loop.’ That is how I was coerced to come here today,” the South Carolina native said lightheartedly.

On the note was written three things: “Always quit tomorrow; you can try and fail, but never fail to try … and never let anybody ever tell you what you cannot do.”

Melvin took those words to heart especially during trying times including before the Forge where he admitted anxiety was getting to him.

"A lot of people were talking and saying it was going to be hard,” he said. “You hear rumors going around but all you gotta do is keep your head straight. Push through it. You got it."