Most of the folks in Bulloch County are familiar with the Fort Stewart National Guard Training Center located just south of Bulloch in Liberty County. But what many folks may not know is that the Garrison Commander is one of Bulloch's own. His family even has their own road.
In a pinning ceremony on December 1, Fort Stewart Garrison Commander David S. Lee was officially promoted to the rank of Colonel in the Georgia Army National Guard. At the ceremony, his wife, Elizabeth, and sister, Diane Blair, pinned his eagles on the shoulders of his dress jacket, while his brother, Tommy Lee, pinned them on his hat. His daughters, Shannon and Jordyn, pinned them on his shirt.
“It was one of my personal and professional goals to make full bird colonel in the organization,” said Lee. “I’ve got about 10 years until retirement and if I get promoted above colonel, it would be a little more icing on the cake.”
Understandably, Elizabeth was ecstatic to hear the news.
“I think it’s well deserved and I’m very proud that he’s made it this far with the Guard,” she said.
David Lee was born and raised in Bulloch County, attending Nevils Elementary and Southeast Bulloch High School before attending Georgia Southern College. After he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering in 1987, he worked briefly in Savannah at a civilian job, until two years later, when a full-time position opened up with the Guard. He’s been with them ever since.
In 1981, at his brother’s encouraging, Lee enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard as a private before he had even graduated high school. After graduation, he went to basic training and came back to Statesboro to enroll at GSC, where he was a reservist all through college.
Before taking the commander position at Fort Stewart, Lee and his family were living in the Atlanta area, where he was the director of information management for the Guard. When the position opened up, he and the guard realized it was a good fit.
“The leadership of the Guard realized that I was from Bulloch County, I would likely retire here and I already had an established farm,” said Lee. “they said we have a win-win situation down here.”
Elizabeth has recently started a new job as a doctor/patient coordinator with East Georgia Foot and Ankle Center, in Dr. Gale’s offices. Shannon, 19, is a sophomore at GSU, studying business with an emphasis in information management. Jordyn, 15, is a sophomore at Southeast Bulloch and is actively involved in dance.
“We’re happy to be back [in Bulloch County],” said Lee.
That may be true for everyone but Shannon, who had the run of the family home while she’s been attending GSU. Now, her parents have invaded her independence as a result of moving back into the house.
In his time away
The Fort Stewart National Guard Training Center has over 700 acres of land and 600 support facilities (buildings). They provide any organization — National Guard, Reserves, active duty, Boy Scouts, law enforcement — a place that they can stay and operate out of, while doing the kind of training they need to do.
With that kind of traffic, as well as normal wear and tear, Col. David Lee said it’s a constant battle to stay on top of things.
“With over 600 buildings that are quite old — they need frequent maintenance — it’s a never ending battle,” Lee said. “We never get bored around here with units coming in all the time.”
Last year alone, the base had over 1.2 million man-days, which averages out to 3,200 individuals training on the base any given day of the year.
“The DARE program is having a training session right now with local law enforcements agencies. We provide a facility for them to come and do training. It doesn’t have to have to be military — it can be anybody that wants to come here. We provide that service for them.”
“Though we’re in a lull right now, we are preparing for the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Indiana, who will go through mobilization training for about 2 1/2 months before shipping overseas.”
The Lees have a sizable family presence in Bulloch. David’s father was one of 12 siblings and he is the fourth youngest of 36 grandchildren. In addition, they have a fair number of relatives on Lee Road — named after his family — including his sister, brother, nephew and niece. At one time they had uncle and aunts nearby as well — their own little family neighborhood association.
Having so many family members nearby has unintended consequences, said Lee.
“Not to long ago, I decided to invite a few cousins over for a barbecue — I thought we’d have maybe 12 or 14 of my cousins show up,” said Lee. “Well, next thing I knew, we saw car, after car, after car come up and we ended up with about 70 of my family members. They just got on the phone and said ‘Party at Dave’s place.’ We had a large time. That’s just the Lee family. I would have it no other way.”
He did say there were some hazards having such a large, extended family in the area — especially for his dating-aged daughters.
“What Jordyn’s found very unique is that when she started getting to know all the kids at SEB, there’s a very poignant question you need to ask: ‘Who’s your Dad?’” said Lee. “She discovered there are many kids going there that are related to me — second, third and fourth cousins. She’s gaining a greater appreciation of just how large the Lee family is.”