By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Although Atmore was inundated with soldiers last week, there was no reason for alarm.
About 80 men and women who command U.S. Army recruiting stations gathered for their Station Commander Quarterly Leadership and Development Training conference.
“You haven’t seen a lot of green-suiters in the city for a while,” Lt. Col. Adrian “Toby” Jones said during a brief ceremony of thanks for the welcome the group received. “I’m sure some people were asking questions. We probably boosted your economy a little bit.”
The gathering of military men and women included all Army station commanders from across the state and from the Florida Panhandle. The conference included about three dozen female recruiters who discussed “issues specific to female NCOs (non-commissioned officers), especially leadership development.”
Jones, who is in charge of all recruiting operations in the state and the northwestern portion of Florida, said local officials and other residents for making him and his subordinates feel at home.
“People were super-nice, very welcoming,” he said. “I’m from Mississippi, from a similar size town, and it feels a lot like home here.”
He also thanked American Legion Post 90 Commander Dave Graham and Adjutant Paul Chason for allowing the recruiters to use the organization’s headquarters for one of its meetings.
Jones, who earlier presented Mayor Jim Staff with a plaque of appreciation and an Army Challenge Coin, then presented Graham and Chason with the same, as well as a miniature American Soldier statue to commemorate the post’s work in establishing the Golden Eagle Award-winning Old Glory Lookout project at Cheaha State Park.
“That was a pretty amazing project these guys put together to recognize and honor the nation’s flag when they have to be disposed of.”
Graham said, “We’ll certainly display this at the post, right next to the Golden Eagle award.”
City employee Jeremy “Wahoo” Ray also received a challenge coin for helping orchestrate the soldiers’ gathering.
“My people said you are the man when it comes to helping us out,” the LTC said. “One thing we do, is recognize and honor folks that are friends of ours.”
SFC Jeffrey Harmon said after the ceremony that the smaller towns are the heart of the Army’s recruiting effort.
“Most of our recruiting environment is towns like Atmore,” Harmon said. “You’ve got Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Huntsville, your bigger cities, but the majority of Alabama is like Atmore, the smaller communities.”
Staff invited the group to come back for its next conference.
“We appreciate y’all being here,” the mayor said. “You’re welcome to come back next time.”