General Gene Habiger has been an active member of the SPIA Board of Visitors since 2005, making him one of SPIA’s longest serving advisors to the dean.
Habiger started his college education in his home state of California. When he realized his grades were at risk, Habiger decided to join the US Army. He was shipped out to Fort Benning. During his time there, he went on a blind date with a woman who would later become his wife of 55 plus years–Barbara Habiger. He ended up finishing his degree in psychology at the University of Georgia in 1963.
Though not a SPIA alumnus, Habiger has been affiliated with SPIA for more than a decade. He was recruited to the Center for International Trade and Security as a policy advisor by University Professor Emeritus Gary K. Bertsch in 2003. From there, Habiger became a board member when Dean Emeritus Thomas P. Lauth personally asked him to join.
“It was a natural follow on,” said Habiger.
Habiger enjoys continuing his association by giving back to SPIA.
“Giving back is the most fulfilling part,” he said. “SPIA is a unique organization doing excellent work and contributing to that means a lot.”
Outsie of his involvement with the SPIA Board of Visitors, Habiger has had a successful military career. He first realized his desire to become a pilot during basic training. While crawling through the California sand, hearing live ammunition zinging around him, he saw a jet aircraft speeding across the sky.
“That’s what I ought to be doing instead of being here wallowing in the sand,” said Habiger.
And that’s what he did. After completing basic training and graduating from UGA, Habiger started off his Air Force career as an intelligence officer. He completed his pilot training in 1966 to live out his dream.
Habiger became a command pilot with more than 5,000 flying hours and several awards and decorations. He has held a variety of staff and flying assignments and flew 150 combat missions during the Vietnam War. Habiger worked his way through the ranks to General in 1996.
“Things started going very well from there,” said Habiger.
After being promoted to General, Habiger completed three tours in the Pentagon. While in Washington, Habiger graduated from the National War College. Additionally, he completed post-graduate programs at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Pennsylvania State University.
“They were very enhancing to a greater understanding of leadership positions,” said Habiger.
Habiger ended his long military career on a high note. In 1996, he was nominated as Commander in Chief by President Bill Clinton to take over the United States Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base. Habiger served in this position until he retired from the military in 1998 as a US Air Force four-star general.
Habiger wasn’t finished yet. After retiring, he served as Director of Security and Emergency Operations for the U.S. Department of Energy.
Ultimately, Habiger served his country to help protect the nation.
“We were in a period of our history when the country and society as we knew it could’ve been obliterated by the use of nuclear weapons,” said Habiger. “I did my small part to prevent that.”
His advice to students pursuing a military or security career is to map out a game plan as early as possible while realizing those plans might change along the way.
“Develop a game plan, develop a timeline and keep your focus,” said Habiger. “There are wonderful opportunities . . . Do your due diligence and take advantage of them.”