Col. John A. George, a 1984 Spencer High School graduate who didn't think he would make it past captain in his Army career, was promoted Tuesday to brigadier general during a ceremony at the Pentagon.
"I'm truly honored and very excited about just the opportunity to continue serving," George said after receiving his star. "This is a team effort, and I'm so happy with the folks I work with here at the Pentagon."
George, 47, comes from a family with a strong military background. His father, Jim George, a retired colonel, served at Fort Benning as a battalion commander and his brother, Jay George, also a Spencer graduate, retired as a colonel. The general still has family living in Cusseta, Ga.
While growing up, the general said his father was a role model.
"I watched his career and he was my role model," George said. "That is how I learned to love the Army."
He also had great support from two teachers at Spencer: His band director Fritz Siler served in the Reserve or National Guard, and Fenton Dixon, a teacher and tennis coach, took care of students in the Kiwanis Club.
After graduating from Spencer, George followed in his brother's footsteps at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. When 1,000 cadets graduated in the class of 1988, George didn't think he would reach this level of success.
"I was just happy to graduate," he said. "I didn't think I would make it past captain to be honest with you."
With 25 years in the military, George is serving his second stint at the Pentagon. He is director of joint and integration, office of the deputy chief of staff, which equips soldiers during a time of tight budgets.
"I will continue to serve as long as I am a benefit to the Army," he said in a telephone interview. "The thing I want to accomplish is after we drawn down the Army and we go through a period of less resources, my job here is to get the biggest bang for the buck for our money. We still have soldiers deployed. We want to make sure they have the right equipment. That's what I want to accomplish."
For teens in high school and those looking for a career, George said he would encourage teens
to find something that they love.
"I think most young folks are patriotic in all of our country," he said. "There is such a reward in working with folks from across our United States and service to the country. I think it is rewarding, it is challenging, it changes who you are because you learned something about yourself and you learn about hard work and you will not only be able to contribute to the country in terms of what it does for your life, but you will be a better man or woman for serving."
Retired Col. Jim George was in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon for the ceremony. He realizes that his son has exceeded his success in the Army.
"I have already saluted him," said his father, who earned a Silver Star for heroism in Vietnam in 1967. "I'm real proud and thankful also. He has served the country and the Army well, and he wants to continue doing that."
Dave Lakin, a Pentagon spokesman, said few general officers have been promoted so far from that class of 1988 at West Point.
"There were 1,000 that tossed their hats up in the air and commissioned second lieutenants," he said. "Now, we only count eight general officers from the class of '88."