- The Essential Military-to-Civilian Transition Resource

Military Leadership in Action: A Q&A with Senator Johnny Isakson

by MTN Staff

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Article Sponsored by: Heavy Equipment College

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Senator Johnny Isakson is a successful businessman with 40-plus years in the real estate industry who has built a respected record of public service to Georgia. He is the first Georgian since the 1800s to have served in the state House, state Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. He also served Georgia as chairman of the Georgia Board of Education. Senator Isakson is serving his second term in the U.S. Senate, and is the only Republican in the Senate chairing two committees: the Senate Ethics Committee and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

To help commemorate the Top 40 Under 40 Military issue and Veterans Day, MTN caught up with Senator Isakson and asked him for his advice for transitioning military and veterans.

Q: You served in the Georgia Air National Guard from 1966 - 1972. What made you join?
A: I was always interested in the U.S. Air Force, and I felt that serving my country was the right thing to do. My grandfather immigrated here from Sweden during the potato famine there, and while he passed on a love of his native land, he was also very proud when he became an American.

Q: In the 1970s, America was experiencing double-digit unemployment, inflation, the Vietnam War and a stock market crash. At that time, you opened a real estate branch and became a successful entrepreneur. How did you overcome obstacles such as these? Did your military experience help you meet these challenges?
A: Well the military prepares you for the unexpected. You must rise above circumstances, find the right assets of your team members and continue to press on. I also had a new wife and family to consider and I like to say they gave me “the inspiration of desperation” to do well and ultimately, to succeed!

Q: Do you have any guidance for veterans interested in serving in public office?
A: I think veterans can serve as some of the greatest assets in any position. Our veterans bring a unique skill set and knowledge, as well as discipline and the right attitude. Their personal experiences in service allow them to bring a different perspective than civilians to a number of important issues, and I encourage any veteran seeking to follow a path of public service to do so. Speak with local government officials, as well as state and federal. There are many more opportunities for public service than many folks consider.

Q: You are the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. What is the most pressing issue for veterans today?
A: The issue I hear most about is timely care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the appeals backlog, and holding bad actors accountable within the department. That’s why I have pushed for my Veterans First Act, a bipartisan bill to help change the culture at the VA through accountability reform as well as enhanced veterans’ health care and benefits.

The Veterans First Act is designed to demand a higher level of accountability from the 345,000-employee department in the wake of numerous scandals over the past few years at VA facilities across the country involving serious mismanagement, misconduct and mistreatment of veterans.

Q: This issue honors top performing individuals who make up the Top 40 Under 40 Military class of 2016. Do you have any advice regarding what a veteran can do to get the most out of their military and/or civilian career?
A: It’s important as a community to embrace all those who have served in order to help them succeed in civilian life.


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