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NEWS | Jan. 31, 2024

Promotion celebrates excellence in uniform, school administration

By Lt. Col. Brett Walker 353rd Civil Affairs Command

School principal, doctor in education, family man, and now lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army – Malik Douglas can do it all. Yesterday, January 25, 2024, Douglas pinned on his new rank in front of his wife, school superintendent, members of the Henry County Board of Education, fellow military officers, and most importantly, his students at Eagle’s Landing Middle School.

“There are not enough opportunities to celebrate what is good in our country and our community, but this is one,” said Henry County Schools Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis. She attended the ceremony at Eagle’s Landing Middle School along with Henry County school board chair Sophe Pope and board members Holly Cobb and Pam Nutt.

Since 2014 Douglas has been the principal of Eagle’s Landing Middle School in McDonough, Georgia. He has been serving in the military, first the Navy and then the Army, since 1989.

In 1997 Douglas finished his second tour with the Navy and enlisted in the Army. Then, in 2006, he commissioned as an Army military police officer. Now, as a U.S. Army Reserve officer serving in the Civil Affairs field, he is able to pursue his dual passions of educating Georgia’s youth and leading American soldiers.

“He has so much passion for this,” said Elijah Rattler, a former EMLS student and current Eagle’s Landing High School freshman who participated in the promotion ceremony by pinning on Douglas’ new rank insignia. “He loves the students. He loves the school. He has a great way of motivating people.”

Rattler was, in fact, the inspiration for yesterday’s entire event. He was the one who originally suggested that Douglas conduct the promotion ceremony at the school. Rattler aspires to be a Marine Corps aviator. Ambitious as that might sound, it is attainable. Eagle’s Landing High School JROTC instructor, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Mark Middleton, has seen it. “One of the things I love about this job is watching the maturation process for four of five years. I see them go from confused kids to F-18 fighter pilots.”

The Eagle’s Landing JROTC program, based at the high school neighboring Douglas’ middle school, boasts 100 cadets. They joined cadets from fellow Henry County high schools Luella and Stockbridge to conduct a parade as part of the promotion ceremony.

Footage of the ceremony is available at: https://www.11alive.com/video/news/local/mcdonough-principal-promoted-to-army-lieutenant-colonel/85-cb0307c7-0b48-446e-8a0a-daf065e5147d and https://youtu.be/KxCOW5f91qU?si=NXgU7vizTcyNdWQi

Presiding over Douglas’ promotion ceremony were his civilian boss – Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis and his military commander – Brig. Gen. Dean Thompson.

“This is a unique event where a public servant is promoted in the military in a public school,” said Davis in her remarks during the ceremony. “I hope all of you see just how much can be achieved through dedication and service to the country.”

Brig. Gen. Thompson echoed the sentiment in his own remarks. “Success like his does not just happen overnight. It takes leadership and talent.”

Douglas honed that leadership through a combination of military experiences and civilian academics. He is a graduate of Excelsior University and received his PhD from Liberty University. He coupled his civilian studies with his military training to develop the necessary leadership skills for managing the 1,200 students and 120 staff members of Eagle’s Landing Middle School.

“It’s similar in the movement of all the students,” said Douglas. “That is a lot of what we do as Army officers. We are always making plans and then adjusting those plans as needed.”

Commenting on the management and leadership skills Douglas forged through a lifetime of military service and civilian education, school board member Dr. Nutt said, “Whenever he needs something, I will always pick up the phone. He is that kind of leader.”

Anita Bridges works in the Eagle’s Landing Middle School front office. She has been working in education since 1995. Moreover, her husband was a career Soldier and she worked for the Army’s Reserve Family Programs. She knows education as well as military culture. She said of Douglas, “He is the best boss I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of great bosses.”

"We are extremely proud to have Lt. Col. Malik Douglas as a leader in our school community,” said school board chair Pope. “Today’s celebration acknowledges his outstanding contributions to our country and undoubtedly serves as an inspiration to all of us to be steadfast in our pursuit of the exceptional here in Henry County Schools.”

Before the promotion ceremony took place, Douglas offered to the attendees a detailed tour of Eagle’s Landing Middle School. The tour featured visits to several classrooms, including one in which another citizen soldier was teaching science. Rachel Torres is an officer in the Georgia National Guard. Douglas introduced her as another example of a citizen soldier whose accomplishments in the military drive her achievements in her civilian career.

“By virtue of being the principal of a large middle school and now being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, Malik Douglas has demonstrated that gifted citizen soldiers can enjoy great success in both their military and their civilian careers by serving in U.S. Army Reserve units, such as the 353rd Civil Affairs Command,” said Thompson, commander of the 353rd Civil Affairs Command. “The U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs Soldiers, like Lt. Col. Douglas, are the ones to whom the U.S. government entrusts its most complex civil-military missions that require empowering local populations and community-building, which is a similar function to what Dr. Douglas does here at Eagle’s Landing Middle School.”

Following the promotion ceremony, Thompson hosted a luncheon for the JROTC cadets. Both Thompson and his senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Clifford Lo, shared with the cadets their perspective on the opportunities available through service in the military. Lo, who was a JROTC cadet himself in high school, likened military service to the Shakespeare quote of “The world is mine oyster.” Thompson reminded the students, “This is the only country in the world where Private Thompson can become General Thompson.”

The 353rd CACOM is principally comprised of senior soldiers and officers with particular expertise in a broad range of skills in civil-military matters used for furthering global stability. For more information, visit https://www.usar.army.mil/USACAPOC/353rdCACOM/.