PELHAM, GA (WALB) - WALB and Montlick and Associates would like to recognize the Heroes Among Us.
Each month, we will spotlight an active duty man or woman, a veteran, or a fallen hero whose service to our country goes beyond the battleground.
“It was a calling," Craig Bennett, a former member of the U.S. Navy, said. "A sense of service is big for me.”
As a student at Purdue University, Bennett made a life-changing decision in 1985 to join ROTC.
“I don’t do things just for the fact of making the almighty dollar,” Bennett said. “To me there has to be a purpose.”
After graduation, Bennett was commissioned into the Navy as an officer in 1990.
For the first 14 years of his service, he piloted helicopters. That included a deployment on the USS Abraham Lincoln, supporting multiple U.S. military operations, including the Gulf War.
His role as an officer during that time helped fulfill his calling.
“You’re leading sons and daughters from across the country. Some of them have barely been in the military for nine months,” Bennett said.
But after those 14 years, his military career took a major turn: his time as a pilot was about to come to an end, just after his second major operation in Iraq.
"I knew some of the things I was going into with these major staffs was continuing to advance our global war on terrorism," he said of the next steps in his career.
For the next 14 years, Bennett would come to deploy to places like Italy, Africa and Portugal, moving up the ranks while serving his country, including time working with NATO and NORAD.
After receiving multiple awards for his nearly three decades of service, Bennett retired from the U.S. Navy in May 2018.
"I had totally different plans in my head," Bennett explained of what he'd do after retirement.
However, by chance or fate, his last military boss in Colorado was Don Davis, the former Commander of the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany.
Bennett said Davis laid the groundwork for what would come to be his next career: public service.
"The good Lord put him in my path and he encouraged me to look at this as a career field," said Bennett.
Just before he retired, he attended a fellowship that focuses on teaching veterans the ins and outs of local government management.
Though he wasn't from South Georgia, he ended up there as the City Manager in Pelham.
“Many of the skills I had in the military are very transferable into leadership, the management, some of the strategy development, the planning,” he said.
He started on September 10, 2018 and was put to the test just one month later.
"I think the crisis management and those type of things that I learned in the military helped in October when we had to go through Hurricane Michael," Bennett explained.
Now, Bennett said he hopes those skills he learned during his 28-year military career, will help him continue to lead his adopted city.
If you would like to nominate your military hero to be featured on ‘Heroes Among Us’ on WALB ABC, click here.