MIAMI — A new adjutant general takes command of the nearly 12,000 troops of the Florida National Guard on Sunday.
Maj. Gen. Michael Calhoun, a 61-year-old former Costco pharmacist, becomes the 22nd adjutant general and the first African American to hold the job. He is to be installed in a ceremony at Camp Blanding.
"When you're around him you'll feel comfortable that he will lead, he will do a good job if there's a crisis," Gov. Rick Scott said of Calhoun, who is replacing the outgoing Maj. Gen. Emmet Titshaw.
Calhoun graduated from Florida A&M in 1976, enlisting as an Army private in 1977. In the years since, his duties have ranged from providing first aid to Cubans arriving in Florida during the 1980 Mariel boatlift, to spending a year deployed with a combat support unit in Kuwait after the American invasion of Iraq.
Along the way, he missed funerals and family reunions, poring over textbooks while on vacation, lugging military strategy books along while on overseas training exercises.
"You need to be lucky," he told The Miami Herald. "You do have to be good. And you need to be blessed because you affect many lives."
The Florida National Guard includes both full-time fighter pilots and part-time infantry troops. They can be called by Scott to assist with a natural disaster, or by President Barack Obama, who can divert them to overseas duty. The Guard admitted its first black soldier in 1963.