Unlike people who’ve spent a lot of time in the military, especially those who have risen in the ranks, I haven’t had a lot of experience working with general officers.
In fact, it hasn’t been all that long since I learned that most military and ex-military people refer to generals generically as “general officers.” Not really sure what’s wrong with just saying “generals,” but there are lots of things about military language and protocol that I don’t know.
I guess that’s likewise in reverse for Lt. Gen. Dana Atkins, who next January will assume command as the president of The Augusta Chronicle.
He comes with no experience in newspapers, but a distinguished career as a scholar, military leader and pilot. Newspapers are changing so much that a fighter pilot might be one of the few not intimidated by the challenge.
For my part, I’m just curious what it will be like, from a sociological viewpoint, for him to transition to a non-military environment. Atkins retires in November, and he’ll have roughly two months before he takes over the yoke of The Chronicle. (And by “yoke” I refer to the stick of a plane, not the collar that a draft horse wears while pulling a wagon. At least, I think that’s what I mean.)
As anyone who has been in journalism knows, this is one career path not exactly known for polish and discipline. This business typically is as disorganized as the military is disciplined. Journalism is like the Army with ADHD, mismatched clothes and no guns.
But enough about the Occupy Wall Street protests.
In all seriousness, the first people I thought of after we got the news of our new commanding officer was our multitude of active duty and retirees in this area. They’ll undoubtedly welcome Atkins because of the instant bona fides he brings.
The civilian community assuredly will do the same. We’ve all forged a pretty good relationship, and I bet uniformed service members in our area get more meals bought for them in restaurants, per capita, by grateful citizens than anywhere else.
The next people I thought of were Jeff Foley and Janet Hicks. They’re former commanding generals at Fort Gordon who since have made the transition to civilian life. I haven’t seen much of them lately, but when I have they seem to be supremely comfortable and relaxed – precisely the opposite of what I expected.
Foley has let his hair grow out a little, for example, and Hicks spends her days running the upper school at Augusta Prep.
Now, I know plenty of military retirees who still are just a little too tightly wound. But if Foley and Hicks are any examples, then Atkins might surprise a lot of us.
But just in case, I think I’ll get a haircut.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Call 706-863-6165, extension 106, or email barry.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow at twitter.com/barrypaschal.)