Gov. Phil Bryant named a retired Army colonel as the new head of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.
Col. Gregory S. Michel, was named Monday, effective immediately. He succeeds Lee Smithson as head of the emergency agency. Smithson resigned in May. J.W. Ledbetter, Bryant’s senior criminal justice policy adviser, filled in as interim director while a replacement was sought for Smithson.
“I am both humbled and honored to accept this assignment from Gov. Bryant as director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency,” Michel said. “I love Mississippi and the people that make Mississippi what it is. Mississippi is home.
"To have responsibility for their safety in times of emergency is significant, and I do not take that responsibility lightly. I am proud to serve Mississippi in this role and look forward to working with the great team of men and women at MEMA.”
Michel was commander of Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center in Hattiesburg until last fall. He served in that role from 2015-2017. He began his military career in February 1988, when he enlisted into the Mississippi Army National Guard with the 1-155th Infantry Battalion as a Combat Medical Specialist in his hometown of McComb.
He was commissioned as an Infantry Officer through the Army ROTC program at the University of Southern Mississippi in 1991. He spent his first 10 years as a traditional guardsman, where he mobilized in support of Operation Desert Storm and completed three rotations through the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, Calif.
During this period, he served in numerous leadership positions in the Infantry Battalion to include Rifle Platoon Leader, Support Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, and Company Commander.
“Col. Michel brings a wealth of experience to MEMA as we enter the heart of hurricane season,” Gov. Bryant said. “He served well the people of Mississippi and our nation for almost three decades as a member of our National Guard, defending our freedom and ensuring our national security at home and abroad. I am certain that service will continue in his new role, and I am delighted he has accepted this appointment.”
In May of 1998, Michel entered active duty with the National Guard. In 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 1-155th Infantry Battalion as the Battalion Executive Officer serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
His awards include the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and numerous others.Michel earned a bachelor’s degree in business and marketing from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1992, a master’s degree from Touro University in 1994 and an additional master’s from the U.S. Army War College in 2016.
He served as president of the National Guard Association of Mississippi in 2014-2015. He has served as regional chairman of the Training Center Commander’s Advisory Council since 2015. Michel is a 2013 graduate of Mississippi Economic Council’s Leadership Mississippi and is past chairman of the American Heart Association’s Forrest-Lamar County Heart Walk. He has served as board adviser of The Better Life Foundation, a charitable organization founded by 3 Doors Down, since 2011.
Michel and his wife, Rachel, live in Ridgeland. They have one daughter, Anna Morgan.