I am very excited to be back at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a member of the I Corps team, and even more humbled to be the 61st commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division.
This is my third time serving in this historic division, and with this being the division’s centennial year, the third time has turned out to really be the charm for me and my family.
My initial assignment was in the 7th Infantry Division when it was based in Fort Ord, Calif., which included service in the Multinational Force and Observers, Sinai, Egypt, and Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama. My most recent assignment was as the senior adviser to the ministry of defense in Afghanistan.
After spending the past year in Afghanistan, I realize our world is more uncertain and volatile than I have ever seen it in my career. As commander of the 7th Infantry Division, I have the incredible responsibility, as do my other teammates on JBLM, to ensure our leaders and their units are trained and ready to deploy, fight and win decisively in any environment.
This means putting an increased focus on individual, crew and collective training to ensure we meet and exceed standards. We must maintain a continuous state of readiness in key areas such as maintenance, weapons proficiency, medical expertise and physical fitness, to name a few.
In addition, our Soldiers must be both mentally and physically tough to handle the rigors of ground combat, and any other mission our nation calls on us to perform, such as providing hurricane relief or wildland firefighting support. Needless to say, we have an extremely talented team and strong leaders who are ready and energized to take readiness to the next level.
September has been an extremely busy time for our team. It began with 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division deploying to the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif. The brigade was originally scheduled to transport its equipment by rail, however, during a no-notice exercise, they deployed their equipment by sea through the Port of Tacoma.
This exercise provided a tremendous opportunity to develop the leaders of the brigade and hone their collective readiness, in the tough, unforgiving terrain of the Mojave Desert and against a ruthless and free-thinking opposing force.
In early September, elements of the 23rd Brigade Engineer Battalion and the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division mobilized Task Force Spearhead. The task force served as firefighters to assist the National Interagency Fire Center as they reacted to wildfires currently plaguing the Pacific Northwest.
This was the first time active-duty military service members from JBLM have been mobilized to serve as firefighters and assist with wildfire suppression efforts since 2015.
In addition to the firefighting mission, 1st Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. Soldiers have been busy supporting two bilateral exercises — Rising Thunder 17 and Yudh Abyhas 17 with our Japanese and Indian military counterparts, respectively. Both exercises allow us the opportunity to improve our collective skills and relationships with our allies in the Pacific and promote interoperability.
The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade also welcomed home their 4th Squadron, 6th Attack Heavy Reconnaissance Squadron after a successful 9-month deployment in Iraq in support of combined joint task force Operation Inherent Resolve. We should all be proud of their efforts.
Additionally, we look forward to the return of the remainder of 16th CAB over the next couple of months from Afghanistan.
The 2nd Infantry Division Artillery participated in Exercise Ulchi Freedom Guardian along with I Corps and many other JBLM teammates. This exercise continues to strengthen our ties with the Republic of Korea and its military.
The 555th Engineer Brigade continues its yearlong support of support of U.S. Northern Command participating in several exercises in the state of Washington, at Joint Base Lewis McChord and at Fort Hood, Texas.
Finally, I am pleased that we are partnered with the Washington Army National Guard, in particular the 81st Brigade. It is important for us to build relationships and combined readiness with our Reserve and National Guard teammates as we continue to depend on each other more and more in this complex world in which we live. I look forward to working with them in their transformation to a Stryker brigade.
In closing, I look forward to getting to know the rest of my teammates, the Soldiers, families and surrounding communities that support this great installation.
Trust in Me!