By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – A soldier who received his earliest military training as a member of the ROTC at Northeast Mississippi Community College will be announced today as adjutant general of the Mississippi Army National Guard.
Retired Brig. Gen. Augustus L. “Leon” Collins will be named by Gov. Phil Bryant as the Guard’s head.
Northeast President Johnny Allen announced at Tuesday’s regular Board of Trustees meeting that Collins is expected to be sworn in at 1 p.m. today in Jackson. He said Collins’ parents, Leroy and Debra Williams, who live in Booneville, are unable to travel and will be on-campus guests to watch the ceremonies in a video feed. He invited any board members who would like to join them.
A 1977 graduate of Northeast and its ROTC program, the Booneville native went on to complete his undergraduate education at the University of Mississippi, Allen said. He later completed a master’s degree at Jackson State University and strategic studies at the U.S. Army War College in Massachusetts.
Collins was first commissioned as an officer in 1980 and served in various command and staff positions, including company, battalion, regiment, brigade and the adjutant general’s primary staff, according to his National Guard biographical information. He served on active duty in Operation Desert Shield/Storm and served as commander of the 155th Separate Armored Brigade in Iraq as a colonel. He was promoted to brigadier general in May 2005, the first black general in the Mississippi Army National Guard.
In 2006, Collins was appointed director of mobilization forces of the U.S. Army Forces Command, in which he served as the principle general officer assistant to the commander for matters pertaining to mobilization and employment of national guard and U.S. Army reserve units and individuals.
Later in 2006 he was named Trailblazer of the Year at the Mayfest Mississippi Trailblazers Award Ceremony.
In early 2010, Collins, then retired, joined retired Brig. Gen. Roger L. Shields in a news conference in Jackson to call for greater investment in early childhood education.
They released a report “Ready, Willing and Unable to Serve” that shows investing in high-quality early education would reduce dropout rates and arrest rates and increase the pool of candidates qualified for the U.S. military and Mississippi National Guard.
They were representing the nonprofit organization of senior retired military leaders, Mission: Readiness. The nationwide group of more than 130 retired admirals and generals supports policies to help young people get the right start in life so they are prepared for the workforce or military service, if they choose that path.
“Field commanders need our service members to respect authority, work within the rules and know the difference between right and wrong,” Collins said in the group’s news release. “Early learning opportunities help instill the qualities that make better citizens, better workers and better candidates for uniformed service.”