Deputy commander to bid adieu to Cadet Command
May 30, 2013
Brig. Gen. Erik Peterson believes in the power of teamwork.
So it should have surprised no one at his promotion last week -- a ceremony squarely focused on him -- that Peterson dedicated much of his time at the microphone to applauding others for playing key roles in his career.
His family. Commissioned leaders under whom he served. Fellow Soldiers.
As he prepares for his next assignment, Peterson reluctantly finds himself back in the spotlight. After just nine months as the deputy commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, the Army's newest general officer in June will become deputy commanding general for support for the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea.
A farewell/welcoming ceremony is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at Cadet Park in front of Cadet Command's headquarters, where Peterson will be succeeded by Col. Maria Gervais. She is currently the chief of the Full Dimension Protection Division for the Department of the Army G8.
Though his tenure was only nine months, Peterson made his mark, said Maj. Gen. Jeff Smith, commanding general of Cadet Command and Fort Knox. He and Peterson served together when the two were stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y.
Describing his deputy as a "strategic thinker," Smith said Peterson has served Soldiers with passion and his heart.
"I can't thank you enough for all you have done for this command," Smith said at the promotion ceremony. "The Army certainly got this right when they selected you to be a general officer. … He'll go on, I'm sure, to wear many stars in our Army."
As he reflects on his time at Fort Knox, Peterson strays from viewing it in a singular context. He was part of a team, he says, that continually sought to improve the command and the post.
He didn't log accomplishments. Rather, the team made significant strides.
"This is a team sport, so I don't believe individual accomplishments are particularly relevant," Peterson said. "If there's anything I've accomplished individually, it would be occasionally helping teammates in Cadet Command or on our Fort Knox team tackle a complex problem or overcome some sort of adversity."
Serving with Cadet Command proved to be a different experience for Peterson, who until last year spent his entire career in the operational force. Helping oversee the development of future Army leaders was "eye-opening," he said.
Though Peterson was a commissionee through the ROTC program at the University of Idaho, seeing the program from the institutional side was something of an education as well.
"I've learned a great deal about our institutional Army, or as our TRADOC commander, Gen. Robert Cone refers to it, the Army of preparation," he said. "More importantly, this position has given me the opportunity to see firsthand the emphasis and priority our Army is placing on improvements to our leader development programs -- and an opportunity to advance the leader development ball on behalf of great future lieutenants we're educating, developing and training."
Because of Cadet Command's expansiveness, Peterson spent considerable time traveling the country, telling the ROTC story to an array of community leaders and educators. Perhaps most importantly, he got to see Cadets -- both on the senior and junior levels -- in action and was moved by their talent, enthusiasm, commitment and potential.
He just wishes he had more time to have visited with more of them, he said.
Peterson also had the chance to dialogue with them about their experiences and, particularly with collegiate Cadets, to get their assessment of the way in which they're developed, from simple college student to focused second lieutenant.
To the latter, Peterson joined the command as the foundation for Bold Transformation was being laid. The initiative, orchestrated by Smith, seeks to make unprecedented changes to the ROTC curriculum, training and assessments that ultimately result in Cadets who are stronger critical thinkers, more focused and better equipped professionally and personally to lead Soldiers.
Gaining support, Peterson said, isn't necessarily difficult because of how the initiative's goals and objectives are closely linked to Army leadership priorities.
"Of course, change of any sort in a large, widely disbursed organization takes significant energy and leadership," he said. "Cadet Command is prepared to sustain this valuable effort."
In his new position, Peterson will have oversight of support and logistics operations for the 2nd Infantry Division and, in a role unique to Korea, will also have broad delegated responsibilities as the senior responsible officer for Army units and operations in a sector known as Area III, which covers a large portion of the peninsula south of Seoul and north of Taegu.
Peterson has spoken with his Cadet Command successor and advised her to early on gain a firm understanding of the command's strategy, the Fort Knox team, the commanding general's vision and the key initiatives being implemented. Gervais will play a key role in maintaining the momentum for efforts such as Bold Transformation and in their execution, he said.
"Our Army's and our nation's future is really in good hands, and it's a pleasure to be part of developing leaders of character for our nation," Peterson said. "I've also enjoyed talking to community leaders and educators about our Army and ROTC. I'm genuinely proud of who we are and what we do, and I've found that people really want to hear our stories."