Georgia TAGs Meet,
and The Result Is Historic

Brig. Gen. Alpha Fowler, Jr.
Maj. Gen. S. Ernest Vandiver
Maj. Gen. Billy M. Jones
Maj. Gen. Joseph W. Griffin
Maj. Gen. William P. Bland, Jr.
Maj. Gen. David Poythress
Brig. Gen. Ben L. Patterson
Original caricatures of TAG forum participants by Lt. Col. Ken Baldowski. From the top: Brig. Gen. Alpha A. Fowler, Jr., Maj. Gen. S. Ernest Vandiver, Maj. Gen. Billy M. Jones, Maj. Gen. Joseph W. Griffin, Maj. Gen. William P. Bland, Jr., Maj. Gen. David B. Poythress the current TAG, and Brig. Gen. Ben L. Patterson.

Armory building programs, reorganizations and a little persuasion were stepping-stones to today's Georgia National Guard, according to the leaders who helped shape the past half-century of Guard history. The revelations came as six former Adjutants General and the current AG appeared together for the first time at the Historical Society of the Georgia National Guard's 9th Annual Conference in Forsyth.

Participating in the "Forum on the Office of the Adjutant General" were Maj. Gen. David B. Poythress, Brig. Gen. (Ret) Alpha A. Fowler, Jr. (1947-1948); Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Bill M. Jones (1975-1983); Maj. Gen. (Ret) Joseph W. Griffin, (1983-1990); Maj. Gen. (Ret) William P. Bland, Jr., (1991-1999); and Brig. Gen. (Ret) Ben L. Patterson (Asst. Adjutant General, Air, 1975-1977, 1983-1990). Two-time Adjutant General and former Gov. S. Ernest Vandiver, (1948-1954, 1971) appeared via videotape.

Mayor Paul Jossey, former Georgia Army Guard Chief of Staff, and the City of Forsyth hosted the event.

Calling the symposium a "momentous occasion," Jim Wooten, editorial page editor of The Atlanta Journal, and meeting facilitator, noted that the conference was a "rare opportunity to get people of this caliber together" to talk about the institution of the Guard.

In his keynote address, General Poythress noted that "soldiers see themselves as part of history" and have a self-concept of which needs to be reaffirmed. "Not necessarily by written orders of battle but by the stories of individual valor; individual sacrifice and courage. That's the soldier's self concept," the general declared.

In his pre-recorded message, Gov. Vandiver noted that when he first came to office in 1948, he was the youngest man two-star general in the nation at 31. Among his priorities, he said, was to initiate an armory-building program. "We had people meeting in barns, and haylofts," Vandiver said. During his tenure more than 60 armories were built. Vandiver said that while he was serving as lieutenant governor, the armory-building program sparked a fit of pique from then Gov. Marvin Griffin, himself a former Adjutant General.

"I was asked to dedicate the Dublin Armory and Gov. Griffin didn't like that very much, so he made a big to-do about it and fired General George Hearn (the Adjutant General) and Col. (Homer) Flynn (assistant AG) cause he felt they were part of the problem. Of course when I was elected governor I put General Hearn and Col. Flynn back on the job," Vandiver quipped.

General Fowler, who came to the office in 1947 as the Guard was being reorganized after World War II, said he and his public relations officer crisscrossed the Georgia landscape by air, "setting down" at small airstrips and trying to convince local officials to host Guard units. Some towns, which he declined to name, which now are big supporters of Guard units, weren't enthused over the prospect in 1947, he said

Commenting on his tenure as Adjutant General in the mid-1970s, General Jones, a former commander of the 116th Fighter Wing, noted that he enjoyed working with and coming to understand the hard work and dedication of the Army National Guard. During his tenure, the Georgia Guard began modernizing its equipment inventory both in the Army and Air Guards.

General Griffin, who lauded General Jones' achievements as TAG, noted that during his "watch," the Guard became heavily involved in domestic crises which included civil rights marches in Forsyth County, and in Atlanta. Griffin's period in office ended just as the 48th Infantry Brigade deployed to the National Training Center, Ft. Irwin, Calif., during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

General Bland noted that during his period in office the Guard faced state emergencies of historical proportions, including the "storm of the century," a snow-storm which paralyzed Georgia in 1993, the floods of 1994 and assisting in the protection of the world's athletes during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.

General Patterson noted that during his tenure in the Guard, the Air National Guard went from a "flying club" to a professional organization. He said that over time the Guard "more and more direction and money" from the state and federal governments. One of the programs Patterson cited as most significant was the introduction of the AGR (Active, Guard and Reserve) program. He lauded General Jones' contribution, saying that it was Jones and Senator Sam Nunn "who put it in."

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