RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK –Jeffrey Lunsford must feel like he has gone back in time to his life as a naval aviator being catapulted off the rocking deck of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga.

Lunsford is the new president and chief executive officer of TogetherSoft, but he wasn’t hanging around the office Monday to meet the press. Rather, he was on a plane headed for the West Coast to meet with customers and to make sales calls.

Life has been a whirlwind for Lunsford in recent days. A former F/A-18 Hornet fighter pilot in the Navy, he came to Raleigh from Atlanta last Thursday to meet the troops at TogetherSoft. He even paused for lunch as TogetherSoft’s management team introduced him as the new chief. The company formally announced the decision Monday, but by then he was flying west.

Lunsford, who served in the Navy in the ’80s and is a graduate of Georgia Tech, can expect to maintain the same frantic pace for a while. TogetherSoft has hit some bumps in the road but still has aggressive growth plans and someday hopes to do an IPO.

In fact, TogetherSoft says Lunsford’s experience as senior vice president of corporate development at S1 Corporation in Atlanta which he helped take public was a factor in hiring him. Lunsford was found by a recruiting firm working for TogetherSoft and was one of a number of candidates interviewed, Lee says.

“Being involved in the IPO process really helped,” says Kristi Lee, a spokesperson for TogetherSoft. “He’s a really good match.”

Lunsford also was president and co-founder of Brintech, Inc., a bank technology consulting firm.

TogetherSoft has been searching for a new CEO for much of this year after founder and chairman Peter Coad stepped aside (he insists he did so voluntarily) to focus on strategy. John “Beau” Vrolyk took over on an interim basis, commuting from California. But Vrolyk is now a partner in Warburg & Pincus out of New York, although Lee says he plans to remain on TogetherSoft’s board.

Coad said in a statement that Lunsford’s naval background impressed him.

“Jeff Lunsford is everything that we as a board were so very actively looking for. He’s not only bright, articulate and decisive, but also a proven military and business leader with public company experience and a fiercely competitive nature.”

If nothing else, fighter pilots are aggressive and smart — even if those in the Navy choose to be literally thrown off a deck over raging seas and then have to land on nothing more than a flyspeck in the middle of an ocean.

War on freedom?

As we near the anniversary of 9-11-01 and the war on terror continues, a growing number of people are questioning the technology crackdown as part of that war.

In fact, “Reporters Without Borders”, an international media rights group, says several countries are now “predators of digital freedom”.

The Associated Press reports that Western countries have joined the ranks of repressive regimes such as China and Vietnam in cracking down on Internet freedom. “A year after the tragic events in New York and Washington, the Internet can be included in the list of ‘collateral damage. Cyber-liberty has been undermined and fundamental digital freedoms have been amputated,” AP quoted the group as saying.

Pretty strong talk.

Given the fact the terrorists used email extensively for communications (such as anonymous email accounts where no records are kept) and money transfers, a crackdown had to be expected. But Reporters Without Borders says new FBI technology called “Magic Lantern” (to record keystrokes) and legislation in Canada, France and elsewhere go too far in repressing freedom of the Net.

‘Tis a difficult battle to balance and freedom and protection. There are no easy answers. Who wants to see another 9-11, perhaps with nuclear weapons? On the other hand, who doesn’t fear the idea of “Big Brother”?

Rick Smith is managing editor of Local Tech Wire.