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Perdue honors state's National Guard leader at Lake Lanier

BUFORD - The head of Georgia's National Guard received a promotion Saturday, becoming the first three-star general to command the state's citizen army.

Maj. Gen. David B. Poythress, Georgia's adjutant general, was presented his third star in front of a group of National Guardsmen during their annual conference at Lake Lanier Island. His new title is lieutenant general.

Poythress said the promotion will help the state in its dealings with the Department of Defense.

"It means we have more muscle at the table," he said.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, who made the announcement to a stunned group of Guardsmen just before lunch, said the promotion was an honor. Poythress received several standing ovations after the news was announced.

Poythress, the state's 36th adjutant general, commands more than 12,000 members of the National Guard. He retired from the Air Force in 1998, and said one of the Guard's biggest challenges was the security it provided for 2004's G-8 Summit at Sea Island.

Perdue also said he would like to create a Junior ROTC corps for the National Guard so students in rural counties can participate in the program. The federal program, he said, required 100 interested people, a number which can be hard to attain in some of the state's less-populated areas.

In addition to providing the next generation of the state's 48th Brigade, he said, the ROTC program would help students gain skills they need and stay focused in school. While Georgia's graduation rate is just over 60 percent, Perdue said, ROTC members graduate at a 94 percent rate.

"I hope to implement it this fall," he said. "As soon as possible is the answer."