Russel Carlson, deputy adjutant general for the Georgia Department of Defense, gives an update Tuesday at the Dougherty Rotary Club on the activities the department is engaged in as well as the scope of its presence. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
ALBANY —In conjunction with the 377th birthday of the U.S. National Guard, a representative from the Georgia Department of Defense took the opportunity to give an update — as well as some perspective — on what the entities within the department are up to and how strong of a presence they maintain.
Russel Carlson, deputy adjutant general for the Georgia Department of Defense, was at the Dougherty Rotary Club on Tuesday to share that message as part a “State of the Guard” address on behalf of an organization consisting of 15,000 people represented in areas worldwide.
“We are literally global,” he said to the club. “… There are a lot of folks in support of the military, but it might have been awhile since you have looked under the hood.”
Recently, the Army Communities of Excellence recognized the Georgia Army National Guard as the top Army National Guard in the country — which Carlson said took into account, in part, how the guard’s facilities are managed and kept up to date.
“It was a competition we took very seriously,” he said.
The state’s defense department answers to Gov. Nathan Deal, who appoints its leadership. It’s entities are the Army National Guard, including more than 11,000 soldiers, the Georgia Air National Guard, consisting of more than 2,800 airmen and two flying wings based in Savannah and Warner Robins, more than 800 volunteer members in its State Defense Force and nearly 500 employees in state operations.
In all, there were more than 1,500 guardsmen in the state sent on deployment in 2013. The 48th Brigade is set to send 200 on a year-long deployment in early January.
“If you had asked us about that number (several months ago), it would have been much higher,” said Carlson of the upcoming deployment.
In terms of statewide impact, there was $680 million in federal funds brought into Georgia balanced by $9 million in the state budget for Fiscal Year 2013, Carlson said. There was $25 million in state income tax generated from the guard’s payroll.
As far as money put back into the economy goes, there was $135 million in military construction invested throughout the state in 2009, Carlson said.
Carlson also noted there are roughly 70 guardsmen living in Dougherty County currently representing more than 30 companies.
Among some of the other things attached to Georgia’s defense department is the Counterdrug Task Force Program — which assists local law enforcement agencies in the state with their operations, specifically drug seizures — and the Youth Challenge Academy.
The youth academy caters to the at-risk population and provides them academic training over the course of 22 weeks at Fort Gordon and Fort Stewart. Participants have to voluntarily drop out of school, but there are opportunities to get a high school diploma through the program.
Established in 1993, the return investment for Georgia from the academy has been $2.61 for every dollar spent, and there are a number of success stories to help back up the need, Carlson said.
Among club members and guests there Tuesday expressed their support for a program like this in Dougherty County, to which Carlson said the need for it in the area has not been lost on officials and that “legitimate due diligence” was on its way.
“Looking at the applications alone, (we can tell) there is a need here,” he said.