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Retired guardsman shows dedication

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Some people retire and move to their favorite vacation spot -- the mountains, the beach, or a pretty lake somewhere.

Some retire and take up a hobby.

Not Robin James.

James, a 60-year-old Jonesboro man, spent more than 41 years working for the Georgia Army National Guard. He retired, and then he went back to work.

"Naturally," he said. "I couldn't say, no, after more than 40 years in the Guard. I said I would. I didn't even change chairs. I'm doing exactly the same thing."

If there's one thing he learned with the Guard, you would have to say it is dedication.

He wasn't always that committed, though.

When James joined in 1965, at the tender age of 18, it was mostly because his brother had joined up and his brother-in-law was a guardsman, too. It seemed like a good thing to do.

He spent three years as a traditional guardsman, James said, working for the Georgia-based reserve force on weekends and for short stints as a private in Troop A, 748th Armored Cavalry Squadron, 48th Armored Division in Jackson, Ga. He was promoted, three years later, taking on the duties of equipment engineer. Then, he joined the Guard full time.

"I've been doing it every day since 1969," James said from his Jonesboro home. "It just refocused me. I was a young man and didn't have a lot of responsibilities, but when I decided to do it full time, and service other soldiers, it changed my outlook a great deal."

He rose to the rank of sergeant first class, and was appointed Warrant Officer 1 in 1980, assigned as the Acting Adjutant and as full-time Unit Personnel Technician, stationed in Atlanta.

In that capacity, James "serviced the soldiers," making sure that Georgia reservists were ready when they were needed, making sure the guardsmen and guardswomen were prepared for their country's call.

The biggest challenge James faced, over his four decades of daily services, was also the biggest change for the Guard, in memory. After the terrorists attacks of 2001, the Army National Guard became an "operations force that's depended upon by the Army," James said. "It happened to us, and our units and our soldiers had to step up. And they certainly have."

They could step up, filling the need, because of exactly the same commitment they could see driving James. The 60-year-old, though, describes the current generation in the Guard as more mature than previous ones, more mature than he was, when he was their age.

"They're such good people," he said. You just look into their faces and you feel good. You feel good about where things are going in this country."

One of those young people is James' oldest daughter, Maj. April Asher, who was sworn into the Guard by her father.

"I would describe the young men and women of the Guard as dedicated," he said. "Because they are and they're more than just, like the old derogatory term, 'weekend warriors.' There's more to it than that. The young men and women coming in are focused and they're very capable."

James continues to work to assist those soldiers, making sure they're ready and prepared, as the Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of the Chief of Staff.