As we come to the end of the summer transition season across the 7th Infantry Division, we have one last change of command to conduct Aug. 11. For me, personally, this is the toughest one because it’s for my Ranger Buddy, Maj. Gen. Thomas James Jr., and his phenomenal wife, Chelle.
Although this is a part of our customs and traditions, and is part of what makes our Army the best in the world, it’s still tough to say goodbye to those we serve with who have had a lasting impact on our lives, both personally and professionally. I would like to talk about just a few of his many initiatives, specifically the vision and training that General James has established across Task Force Bayonet during his tenure as the commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division.
First, was the consistent vision: “A team of Army professionals that are combat ready to fight and win in a complex world.” Every Soldier in the division understood it, and this one sentence is internalized throughout.
He further defined what each specific topic meant to our profession. His priorities under the readiness umbrella were:
• Strengthen Soldier, civilian and family fitness.
• Build combat-ready battalions and squadrons.
• Develop and certify leaders of the profession.
The commanding general’s number one priority was to strengthen Soldier, civilian, and family fitness. He developed this by creating the Bayonet Warrior Athlete Program.
General James wanted our Soldiers to be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually fit to ensure we were fully ready to deploy, fight and win decisively, anywhere.
He wanted a program that built and sustained personnel readiness through a holistic approach to individual health and fitness and a comprehensive fitness and wellness program that included properly integrating new Soldiers, rehabilitating our injured reserve Soldiers, educating them on lifestyle choices, and ensuring progression of fitness and readiness.
We fielded 78 Gyms In a Box to each company-size units. He wanted to ensure we resourced and equipped, educated, competed and incentivized, assessed and then sustained our momentum. I have never seen a culture of fitness change in an organization in such a short amount of time.
Bayonet Focus was a vision General James had shortly after taking command since the brigades we have training and readiness authority over did not have a culminating training exercise leading up to a combat training center rotation. This changed under his leadership.
We conducted three Bayonet Focus exercises with Bayonet Focus 17-03 being the largest operation planned and conducted by 7th ID since Panama.
The exercise met all expectations and allowed General James to certify 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division as ready for the National Training Center.
We were able to execute infantry battalion-level live fires with the integration of cavalry, AH-64s, artillery, organic mortars and engineers. It was a tremendous team effort by more than 6,200 Soldiers from 17 units.
Furthermore, it was our first opportunity to exercise the multicomponent augmentation from Georgia and Oregon in our division headquarters Training and Readiness Authority-Command Post.
The Joint Pacific Multinational Readiness Capability team from Hawaii provided a world-class Exercise Control Center, Observer Controller/Trainer coverage and instrumentation package.
General James continuously built combat ready units including three Stryker brigade combat team-level rotations to the National Training Center and multiple different battalion sized elements supporting I Corps’ focus on the Pacific through participation in numerous Pacific Pathway rotations.
General James produced a generation of competent, confident and committed leaders who internalize the Army profession.
I could easily go on about the tremendous things the commanding general put in place; the leadership and focus on things such as maintenance, manning strategy, Gold Star families, our Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Tiger Teams, integrated combined arms strategy, man, equip, train and lead throughout, but the most important thing he did was build a team through mission command.
The climate that he established across the formation is the best I’ve ever been a part of in more than 28 years in the military. He is authentic, humble, physically fit and genuinely cares for people. I have seen this in spades over the past two years.
Lastly, General James has many personal Army heroes who have tremendously impacted his life. At the very top of his list is the late Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, former company commander in the 7th ID and later the division commander. General James, to me personally, and many others across Task Force Bayonet, is our Hal Moore.
He is clearly at the top of my list, and I would follow him into combat anytime, anywhere. Task Force Bayonet will miss General James and Chelle, tremendously.
Trust in Me, Bayonet!