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Officer retires after 40 years serving nation

BUFORD - A Gwinnett County Air National Guardsman who guided human resource policy for decades retired after more than 40 years of military service.

Three days later, Col. Jimmy Davis, 60, of Buford accepted a position with the Department of Defense's Smyrna office as a mediator/investigator.

"I don't want to be bored," said Davis. "I am not a stay-at-home person. I have to be productive to society."

Davis retired after serving three years as the Director of Human Resources for the National Guard Bureau under Lt. Gen David B. Poythress. During those years he helped formulate policy for the nation's 500,000 National Guardsmen.

Upon his retirement, Davis was awarded the honorary promotion to brigadier general and was awarded his second Legion of Merit Award. He received numerous awards and certificates from governors and adjutant generals from across the nation.

"They've given me so much stuff we don't know where we are going to put it all," Davis said.

Formal retirement military ceremonies were held Jan. 21 at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Smyrna. A number of well-known military officials honored Davis during the ceremony, including Poythress, Georgia's adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Ronald Young, human resources director for the National Guard Bureau; Maj. Gen. Terry Nesbitt, commander of the Georgia Army National Guard; and Maj. Gen. Scott A. Hammond, commander of the Georgia Air National Guard.

Davis began his military career in 1966 as an enlisted administrative specialist in the 116th Military Airlift Group based at Dobbins ARB. In 1974, he was reassigned as a personnel technician to the Human Resources Office of the Adjutant General and was commissioned as a first lieutenant in 1978.

The 2003 promotion meant a move to Washington, D.C. With two daughters, Emily and Julie, in their final years at North Gwinnett High School, Davis and his wife of 28 years, Sue, decided not to uproot the family. For three years, Davis commuted from Washington, D. C., to his Buford home once or twice a month.

"To go to Washington was a big decision. We prayed over it," Davis said. "In going I realized that we needed some senior HR expertise and leadership at that level and I knew my office was right up there. I had been in HR since 1974 so I thought I could bring expertise and leadership to D. C. to help the other states and territories. And we succeeded in that."

Sue Davis said the three years in D.C. were less difficult than the separations endured when their daughters were small.

"The oldest was really a daddy's girl and she cried and really missed him when she was small," Sue Davis said. "I'd say to her, 'Well, I wish he were here, too.' But I just kind of got used to him being gone. I always told him I would never stand in the way of his career. I said, 'You go do what you need to do and I will take care of the kids,' because I believed he was doing important work."

Davis' proudest accomplishments during his time in Washington was having re-established two significant programs - the workers compensation program for the National Guard and the National Guard Bureau Training Program, which refreshes the skills of workers who maintain military equipment, like tanks and aircraft.

In 1996, Davis was appointed as director of human resources of the 12,000-member Georgia National Guard. During that time, Davis helped form Georgia's first human relations team to address HR issues and develop programs. Under his leadership, the Georgia Department of Defense earned the National Guard's Diversity Award in 2002.

In 1997, the Georgia Department of Defense won the Georgia Oglethorpe Award for organizational excellence, again under Davis' guidance.

"While serving at Dobbins ARB, Davis was instrumental in establishing the first Total Force blended wing in the Air Force, the 116th Air Control Wing, Georgia Air National Guard," said Lt. Col. Ken Baldowski, public affairs officer, Georgia Air National Guard. "It is the largest wing in the Air Force with approximately 2,400 active duty and Air National Guard members."

True retirement remains in Davis' future. He uses his decades of human resource experience to mediate and investigate grievances and complaints filed by DOD employees. Sue Davis is just glad to have him home.

"I'm very proud of him," she said. "He is a good Christian man who provides wonderfully for the family. I know this sounds like a Hallmark card, but I am proud to be called his wife."