By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – Gov. Phil Bryant said he took recommendations from a panel of previous adjutant generals about whom he should name to head the state’s National Guard.
The panel gave him two recommendations, and on Wednesday Bryant tabbed one of them – Booneville native Augustus Leon Collins – as adjutant general.
Bryant announced Collins, a brigadier general, during a ceremony at National Guard headquarters in Jackson attended by hundreds of Guard members, employees, family and friends. The NEMS Daily Journal reported Collins would be selected Wednesday.
Collins’ wife, Debra, and one son, William, were there. Another son, Benjamin, was taking exams at the University of Mississippi and could not attend. Collins’ parents, Deborah and Leroy Williams, watched on a special video feed from Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville.
In a private ceremony before being announced, Collins was sworn in to replace Maj. Gen. William Freeman Jr., who is retiring from the Guard after 46 years.
Collins said he would work with others to ensure the National Guard is prepared. He said people ask him prepared for what and he responds, “Prepared for whatever…. It will be right around the corner, but we don’t know what corner.”
Collins, a 30-year military veteran, became the first black general in the Mississippi Army National Guard while serving as the commander of the 155th Separate Armored Brigade while on active duty in Iraq in 2005. The mobilization in 2005 was the state’s largest since World War II.
Bryant said after meeting Collins he knew “this man is the most qualified to lead the National Guard … “Brig. Gen. Collins has demonstrated great leadership both in his military career and in his work with young adults, and I am confident that he will guide Mississippi’s armed forces with great integrity.”
Collins spoke of his religious convictions, his love of his state and country and of his family and of the need for help from others to make sure the Mississippi National Guard is the best in the nation. He will oversee more than 12,500 members of the Mississippi National Guard and Air National Guard.
After his assignment in Iraq, Collins served as director of mobilization at the Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson in Georgia. He retired from the military in 2007 and has been working with developing young people in the private sector for Job Corps Centers in 11 states and also working with Nissan in Canton.
He has received numerous military awards and decorations.