Forging bonds with antique metalworking
Brig. Gen. Michael Glisson began working in metal crafts at age 11. He explained that metalcraft work “is in his blood” because he comes from a family of wood and metal craftsmen, fabric creators and builders. (Photo Credit: courtesy of Guard Brig. Gen. Michael Glisson )

By Don Wagner, Army News Service

Illinois National Guard Brig. Gen. Michael Glisson has a passion for creating metal antique reproductions.

Glisson began working in metal crafts at age 11. He said metalworking “is in his blood” because he comes from a family of wood and metal craftsmen, fabric creators and builders. He admires anyone who is “actually making a living in the arts.”

As director of the Illinois National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, Glisson manages Illinois’13,000 Army and Air National Guard members. He provides direction to state, federal and intergovernmental agencies concerning domestic operations, anti-terrorism and force-protection operations. He also coordinates with 37 state agencies, 22 federal agencies and 23 international government and military organizations.

At home though, he is currently making hinges, hasps and handles for a mid-18th-century-style tool box in his metal shop. He also makes knives and military hardware for historical re-enactors and other members of the community on commission.

“I have no doubt that [Glisson’s] imagination and fine artistry in the working of both precious and non-precious metals lends greatly to his imagination, vision and artistry in the conduct of military operations, said retired Lt. Col. Michael Chekevdia. “War is after all, an art.”

Glisson manages the Guard in support of civil authorities regarding flood and storm relief and major natural disasters that include earthquakes.

“Because of the geography in my AOR, we focus a lot on the impact of the New Madrid Seismic Zone, which is a major seismic zone prone to earthquakes in the southern and mid-western United States,” said Glisson.

According to Chekevdia, Glisson is undeniably a Soldiers’ Soldier.

“He is always first to rise and last to sleep. He leads by example and inspires others through his calm demeanor. In 30 years, I have never seen him ruffled. He is one of the most proficient artilleryman I have ever seen. He lives, eats, and sleeps cannon.”

In addition, Glisson said his Guard command partners with Poland and that he hosts annual training and visits with the Polish military.

Glisson was born in Kinchlow, Michigan, and grew up in Bloomfield, Kentucky. He currently lives in Festus, Missouri, which he considers his hometown.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts degree in metalsmithing in 1988 from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Illinois, he was commissioned through ROTC there the same year and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1988. He entered the Illinois Army National Guard in 1990. Glisson later attended the United States Army War College, earning a master’s in strategic studies in 2011.

Another one of Glisson’s passions is community service, specifically volunteer work. He serves as a volunteer assistant scout master for a boy scout troop in Desoto, Missouri.

Glisson teaches blacksmithing to the scouts as often as his schedule allows and believes this helps build future leaders.

He plans to become a full-time artist-blacksmith upon retiring from the National Guard.

A self-proclaimed history buff, Glisson is especially interested in the French and Indian War. He even participates as a French and Indian War re-enactor three times a year in old Fort de Chartres, Prairie du Rocher, and Illinois.

His advice to Soldiers is, “Take care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually; you can’t help others if you are broken.” and “the Golden rule applies. Listen more.”

“Gen. Glisson has immense respect and empathy for his Soldiers,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph. Cistaro, 65th Troop Command Brigade.

“We all know how difficult the Army life can be on dependents, so it was refreshing to hear that he never let the many demands of being a brigade commander cause a negative effect on his home life,” Castro said. “Anyone who can balance the Army and family so successfully is quite an individual and is a value to both.”