July 4 Tribute to KDC Military Family members featuring Jim George, Development Program Manager

07/10/23 | KDC Announcements

To say I was reluctant to join the military is a massive understatement. I was just one semester away from college graduation when my number was pulled in the Vietnam War lottery draft. I already had great job offers and never considered a military career in my life’s plans.

But sometimes life’s blessings come in disguise. Once my number was drawn – along with my best friend in college – we quickly applied to the Navy Officer Candidate School and Navy Civil Engineer Corps School.

Fortunate to be selected and after completing these schools, I then completed the Navy Seabee Officer School and was assigned as the Engineering Officer of a Mobile Construction Battalion. I was deployed along with the battalion to Diego Garcia, which is a coral atoll island in the middle of the Indian Ocean where we did the initial permanent construction for the Navy base there.

It turned out to be a dream job for a 24-year-old man. I was the Engineering Officer in an engineering/construction organization. We had over 1,000 Seabees building essentially everything you can envision a small city needed including roads, an airfield, a power plant, power distribution, a water and sewer system and all kinds of buildings and I was in the middle of it all. Diego Garcia is now one of the United States’ most strategic military facilities.

After that deployment, I was selected to be the Officer-in-Charge of a detachment of Seabees deployed to Adak, Alaska (one of the Aleutian Islands). Our detachment was doing construction support for the Naval personnel who were monitoring Russian communications and activity. It was a high honor for a junior officer to be selected for independent duty and it was another dream job.

I learned to coordinate everything you need for a project (often, halfway around the world) from the materials to the equipment. There was no way to quickly fix it if you forgot something crucial like a piece of equipment, for instance. I also mastered the art of communicating and working with a large group of diverse team members, up and down the chain of command.

After completing three great active-duty deployments with the battalion, I made the very hard decision to return to civilian life. But I loved the Navy and when I came to Georgia Tech to enroll for grad school, I joined the Navy Reserve the same day. In the Navy Reserve, I served in the Civil Engineer Corps and Seabee commands across the southeastern U.S. including three tours as executive officer in different commands and a tour as the chief staff officer of the Third Naval Construction Regiment.

In the early years of my Naval Reserve career, one of my senior officers recruited me into the world of commercial real estate development. The Navy totally changed the arc of my life. I retired in 2001 as a Navy Captain with 31 years of service.

My military experience made me a better American. I learned that it didn’t matter where people are from, Montana or New Jersey, we all learned to work together. We are all Americans. These years of service instilled a real love for our country and an appreciation for the others who have gone before us to protect this wonderful country that we have.

I completely share the sentiments by the late President John F. Kennedy:

“Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction, ‘I served in the United States Navy’.”

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