New CG ready to lead Screaming Eagles
June 27, 2014
- "We've got to give the Army an unmatched capability to do Air Assault operations in any environment, anytime and win decisively," he said. "Our Soldiers have to [be] mentally and physically tough, agile, adaptable and innovative. Those are the kind of Soldiers that are going to get us to succeed in the future." --Commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell, Major Gen. Gary J. Volesky
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- It is Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky's first week on the job as commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell. The Silver Star recipient and Princeton grad is not one to rest on his laurels, however, as he's spent the past few days crafting a plan for his tenure here.
"We've got to give the Army an unmatched capability to do Air Assault operations in any environment, anytime and win decisively," he said, while addressing his vision statement. "Our Soldiers have to [be] mentally and physically tough, agile, adaptable and innovative. Those are the kind of Soldiers that are going to get us to succeed in the future."
His 30-year-plus Infantry career has taken a strange path, he admits, as he often jumped back and forth from the 75th Ranger Regiment to mechanized and heavy units, often within the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. This assignment marks his first time as a Screaming Eagle, despite multiple deployments including Operations Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The 52-year-old earned his Air Assault Badge this year, which served as a great first introduction to the division and The Sabalauski Air Assault School at Fort Campbell.
"I came and went to Air Assault School and that was really the first opportunity I had to really get introduced to the culture of the 101st," said the native of Spokane, Wash.
With the course's reputation for being the toughest 10 days in the Army, Volesky pushed through obstacles such as the Confidence Climb and completed the 12-mile foot march to become Air Assault qualified.
"Those guys were not cutting me any slack," he said of the school's cadre, with a laugh.
The challenge is just one of many Volesky embraced throughout his distinguished career. As commander of 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in Iraq, his actions earned him the Silver Star. During 80 straight days of fighting in the Sadr City area of Baghdad in 2004, the then-lieutenant colonel led an ad hoc element of two tanks and 11 Bradley Fighting Vehicles to rescue an isolated Bradley Fighting Vehicle section. Despite enemy fire, he went on to secure the site and evacuate the wounded.
In leading from the front in combat scenarios such as this one, it's easy to see why Volesky exudes a passion to see Soldiers of all ranks succeed. In his prior assignment at the Pentagon as the Army's Chief of Public Affairs, Volesky witnessed a number of Medal of Honor ceremonies. The stories of these Soldiers, many of them noncommissioned officers, still inspire Volesky.
"What I've found through the last 14 years of war is our privates, our specialists and our sergeants, if they don't do what we ask them to do, we are going to fail," he explained. "… It's amazing to hear what a specialist does when he is the only one on that radio, and he's bringing in fire support. He's treating casualties … and he is just doing unbelievable things."
Volesky looks forward to leading the division into their next rendezvous with destiny, whenever the Nation calls. His focus remains on combat readiness and maintaining Fort Campbell's status as a premier power projection platform, even as the 2nd Brigade Combat Team and 159th Combat Aviation Brigade remain deployed. Volesky said past and present challenges, including fiscal uncertainty, should not hamper this mission.
"We've got to win the current fight. That's the first thing we've got to do," he said. "….But what I can guarantee you is, regardless of the resource constraints, this is still going to be the best Army the world has ever seen."
Volesky also believes a great leader helps others become better, and this mix of empowerment and delegation is what Soldiers can expect to see from the new Eagle 6. Volesky said his higher-ups have provided top-notch examples. He names Forces Command Gen. Daniel B. Allyn and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army (and former 101st Airborne Division commander) Gen. John F. Campbell as two great role models he can call on anytime.
"If you centralize everything, [Soldiers] don't get the ability to really fully develop," he explained. "So part of that is just giving them the authority and letting them run."
Volesky comes to Fort Campbell with his wife, LeAnn, and their son, Alex, an incoming junior at Fort Campbell High School. LeAnn is a former ordnance officer and company commander, who Volesky calls a "great partner."
"She is just as passionate as I am, and especially about making sure we don't forget the role our Families play …," he said.
With a look of determination in his eyes, Volesky encourages Fort Campbell Soldiers to "give 110 percent every day, because this is the most important thing we're doing in our Nation.
"They're part of that less than 1 percent that I would argue is the most valued profession anywhere," he said. "So they should be proud of it, and they should be proud to be in this division."