Retired Major General Maria Britt of Acworth was presented the medal by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson during a ceremony at the Hyatt House off Cumberland Boulevard on Monday.
“It was an honor, and it was very overwhelming,” Britt said. “And I was humbled by the whole presence of all the guests — people I’ve worked with over the last almost 30 years. … It was a very exciting day.”
Britt said the Distinguished Service Medal is the fourth highest military honor and the second highest Army honor a soldier can receive and is given for service “above and beyond normal responsibilities.”
The commendation presented to Britt during the ceremony cites her “exceptional meritorious service” during her time as the commanding general of the Georgia Army National Guard from Feb. 21, 2008, to Sept. 30, 2011. According to a biography given out at the ceremony, Britt oversaw 11,000 soldiers while she was commander of the Georgia Army National Guard, which is headquartered at the Lucius D. Clay National Guard Center in Marietta.
While she was commander, Britt said, she increased the force structure of the Georgia Army National Guard by over 2,000 soldiers by bringing in two brigades to the state: a battlefield surveillance brigade and a maneuver enhancement brigade.
After resigning from the National Guard in 2011, Britt joined the staff of Kennesaw State University in February 2012 as the associate vice president for operations for the university, assisting in the areas of human resource, facilities and construction and public safety, among others.
Randy Hinds, KSU’s vice president for operations, chief information officer and chief business officer, works closely with Britt. Hinds, a fellow veteran and recipient of a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, commended Britt for her service.
“I congratulate Maj. Gen. Maria Britt for being awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for her outstanding leadership while she was commanding general of the Georgia Army National Guard. Maria’s honor brings a great deal of pride to our university and community,” Hinds said.
In addition to her daily duties in the administration at KSU, Britt is a guest lecturer for the Coles College of Business Executive MBA program, a member of the KSU Presidential Commission on Veterans Affairs and serves on advisory boards for the Shepherd Center, Women Veterans Social Justice and Warrior2Citizen, according to the biography.
Britt said she is particularly proud of an initiative through KSU’s Coles College of Business called Georgians Advancing Veterans Education, which helps veterans start their own business or, if they already have a business, helps them further develop it. The GAVE initiative is supported by donations and sponsorships from around the community, Britt said. The program graduated its first class of 13 veteran entrepreneurs in May, Britt said, and opens up for new applications in November.
She is also a member of Sen. Isakson’s West Point Nomination Committee, which reviews applications for appointments to the service academy; an applicant must receive a nomination from a member of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives in order to be considered. Britt was a member of the fourth class of women to graduate from West Point in 1983, she said, adding she is honored to give young people a chance to follow a career path which has given her so much.
“It’s an inspiration for me every year when I serve on that board and get to interview close to 35 of our brightest candidates,” she said.
Britt was “thrilled” to receive the Distinguished Service Medal, but said her accomplishments are the accomplishments of those she served with.
“I’m being honored and my name is on the award, but I couldn’t have done it without the leadership and the hard work of the troops out in the units,” she said.