Guard visits GGC for Military Appreciation Day

LAWRENCEVILLE - Brian Urban, a Georgia Gwinnett College freshman, stood near the campus green Tuesday afternoon, waiting for a Black Hawk helicopter to take off.

"I think it's pretty cool, because Dr. (Tee) Barron, the one flying it, is my math teacher," Urban said.

As part of GGC's Military Appreciation Day, the Georgia Army National Guard brought a UH-60 Black Hawk medium-lift utility helicopter, OH-58 Kiowa observation helicopter, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) and howitzer to campus.

Daniel J. Kaufman, the college's president, said the day was planned after students indicated they wanted to learn more about what happens in the military forces.

National Guard officials were on hand to answer students' questions, including those about available education benefits.

For those who want to further their education, military service provides an opportunity for such advancement, said Kaufman, a retired brigadier general.

Once Georgia Gwinnett becomes accredited, the college will work toward offering a Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program, Kaufman said. The college, which opened in 2006, is a candidate for accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Barron, an assistant professor of math and a staff officer in the 78th Aviation Troop Command of the Georgia Army National Guard, said she put herself through college with an ROTC scholarship. The program not only offers monetary assistance; it helps students develop leadership skills, she said.

Barron, who has been flying Black Hawks since 1992, said she thought Military Appreciation Day was great.

"I think it raises awareness," she said, adding, "The faculty, staff and students are really supportive."

Sebastian Rivera, a freshman, said his brother served two tours of duty and was injured.

"It's good we're doing something to show appreciation for the troops," he said.

Maj. Gen. William T. Nesbitt, the adjutant general of Georgia, said many people have a high level of appreciation for the military, especially as the global War on Terrorism is in its seventh year.

During his visit to Lawrenceville, Nesbitt said he was encouraged by what he saw happening on campus and the college's plans for growth.

"We share a lot in terms of our goals," Nesbitt said. "We're both about developing young people into productive citizens. We have a lot of opportunity to work together."