Houston & Peach

Warner Robins native tracks down former JROTC instructors for promotion ceremony

WARNER ROBINS -- Jonathan McColumn is not a man to forget where he came from.

The 1982 graduate of Northside High School is now a brigadier general in the Army Reserve following a ceremony at the Museum of Aviation on Friday.

Typically a promotion ceremony would be held where the serviceman is stationed, which for McColumn is Des Moines, Iowa. But he returned to his hometown in part because of his elderly mother, who is unable to travel. He also did it for two men who probably thought McColumn had long forgotten them.

McColumn tracked down and invited to the ceremony his two Air Force Junior ROTC instructors at Northside: retired Lt. Col. Pat Mahaffey and retired Senior Master Sgt. Bill Northenor. During the ceremony, they replaced the shoulder boards on McColumn’s shirt.

“I’m just so proud that he took the time to find us,” Northenor said before Friday’s ceremony. “That says everything about him. Not a finer young man ever walked through the doors of Northside High School.”

McColumn said he appreciates Northenor and Mahaffey because they held him to a high standard.

“Back then you didn’t get a trophy because everybody else got a trophy, and no one tried to make you feel good about not getting one,” he said. “Self-esteem was something that you did, not something that somebody had for you all the time. Our goal under their leadership was not to be No. 2, but to be No. 1.”

He gave each of the two Air Force retirees an Army physical training uniform. Also participating in the ceremony was Centerville City Councilman Jon Nichols, who went to high school with McColumn.

“Jonathan never has a negative word,” Nichols told the audience. “Always an encouragement. He always has a smile. ... Jonathan J. McColumn is the epitome of a Northside Eagle.”

McColumn is an ordained Baptist preacher, and he holds degrees from Georgia Military College and Georgia College. He has served 28 years in the Army and Army Reserve, including stints supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as a contracting officer.

With his promotion, he will officially take command of the 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), at Fort Des Moines Joint Reserve Complex. A change of command ceremony is set for Dec. 13.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.