Thurman becomes 18th commander of U.S. Army's largest command
(Left to right) Gen. Charles C. Campbell, outgoing FORSCOM commander; Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., Army Chief of Staff; and Gen. James. D. Thurman, incoming FORSCOM commander; salute during the playing of the national anthem at the U.S. Army Forces Command change of command ceremony June 3 on Hedekin Field at Fort McPherson, Ga.

Thank you everybody. Welcome. Glad to have you here on this great Army day.

As I was coming up, I wasn't quite sure it was gonna be as great a day as I thought because I counted three horses and no one had said anything to me about riding. {Laughter}

When you get to this level, your staff always doesn't tell you one thing for a ceremony. It keeps you on your toes. Fortunately, Hondo [GEN Charles Campbell] had it all taken care of.

Under Secretary of the Army Joe Westphal and former Under Secretary of the Army, Nelson Ford-great to have you with us. [GEN] Ann Dunwoody-great to have you here. [GEN] Craig McKinley-thank for coming out. [GEN (Ret)] Tom Schwartz, [GEN (Ret)] Leon LaPorte and Judy, and Jean Ellis, thanks very much for coming out here with us.

A special welcome to Hondo and Dianne's family who have come from far and wide to help us bid farewell to this great Army family and to honor the service of one of our great command teams, Hondo and Dianne Campbell.

We pay tribute today to their tremendous leadership and to their absolute commitment to Soldiers and Families-a commitment that Hondo has delivered on for more than forty years.

It's been, as I said, forty years since Hondo, a self-proclaimed product of the Louisiana Public School System, was commissioned as Second Lieutenant out of Louisiana State University. And when I look at Hondo's career, I can't help but reflect on how far our Army has traveled since then because, as contemporaries, we have traveled those roads together.

Hondo saw how the Army transformed itself after Vietnam in his early years. And he served as a bridge between an Army built to train and an Army built to deploy into protracted wars on a rotational cycle. A rotational cycle that he-more than anyone-created. In his own words, in the Army Times [newspaper] this week, [what he describes is] really a great tribute to how far we've come. Here's what he said:

"I would argue that the Army is probably more capable today than it was when we entered this fray eight and a half years ago. Which is really without historical precedence."

It is Hondo. And it's largely because of you and the Soldiers you led.

Hondo's outlook on the world that he faced was shaped by his family. Both his father and mother saw service in World War II. His uncle served in Vietnam. His great-grandfather was a cavalryman in the [Russian] Czar's Army.

He came to us with an ethos of selfless service. He began his career in Vietnam as a Senior Advisor to a Vietnamese battalion. He and his noncommissioned officers brought in tanks, outfitted the unit, and trained them. Those experiences as a junior officer allowed him to help change an Army designed to fight on the plains of Central Europe into a world-class counterinsurgency force capable of training local security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He's the last of our Active Duty generals who served in Vietnam. In that career, he saw service in six of our divisions: the First Cavalry Division; Second and Third Armored Divisions; and Second, Third, and Seventh Infantry Divisions. He served in our First Corps and three of our armies: Third, Seventh, and Eighth.

On his return from Vietnam, he spent seven years [back] in the states at Fort Hood and in our recruiting command in West Virginia and Georgia. He obviously bridled with that because in 1983 he joined our foreign legion. He spent the next fifteen years, rotating back and forth between Germany and Korea with only a year off for Leavenworth. And in that time, he always had the hard jobs: S3, Chief of Operations, Chief of Plans, Commander and Senior Trainer in Germany, Brigade Commander, and Chief of Staff in Korea.

A great tenure and always at the front. What happened next though is unclear. We do know that he returned to the United States as an Assistant Division Commander in the First Cav, but why after all those years abroad did he return to the states' One story goes that he hadn't had a date in fifteen years. {Laughter} The other was that he was exhausted from fifteen years of playing the field. I think the truth probably lies somewhere in between, but the reason really doesn't matter. What does matter is that he returned, met, and married Dianne. Which I am sure he will tell you is the best thing that he ever did.

In his career as a general officer, he has led our Corps' and Armies in Germany, Korea, and the United States. [He also] managed to complete a forty-year career without ever gracing the Pentagon with a tour of his own. [APPLAUSE]

Don't applaud. Don't applaud for that. {Laughter}

For his penance, he's been a Chief of Staff five times: 2d Infantry [Division], I Corps, USAREUR, Combined Forces Command, and at FORSCOM. So, Hondo, in the end, we always get even. {Laughter}

But it's been in the last four years that Hondo's made his greatest and most lasting impact on the Army. When he arrived as the Deputy FORSCOM Commander, he joined a proud organization with a long legacy. FORSCOM and its predecessors have provided trained Soldiers and ready units to win our Nation's wars for the last seventy years. Whether we called it the General Headquarters, Field Forces U. S. Army, or Army Ground Forces, its mission has remained to train Soldiers for war.

It's almost impossible to overstate the enormity of FORSCOM's mission today. It's responsible for training, equipping, and preparing three quarters of our Army - Active, Reserve, and National Guard troops - for war. And it's been continually preparing and leading Soldiers about one hundred and fifty thousand Soldiers a year over and back to Iraq and Afghanistan for more than five years. And FORSCOM's done that while sustaining our Soldiers and Families and then transforming our forces for the future.

When Hondo took over his current position in January of 2007, he took over during a very challenging time. We were surging in Iraq and starting to grow the Army. We were five years into an era of persistent conflict [and] operating in two protracted wars. We were sustaining troop levels in CENTCOM by executing "just-in-time" manning, equipping, and training. And not only were we supporting multiple theatres, we were transforming from a division-centric to a brigade-centric Army. We were modularizing and adapting our command and control structures Army wide. And we were rebalancing between Cold War skills and skills more relevant in the twenty-first century. We were also re-stationing the force because of the Base Realignment and Closure Act and Army growth.

We were an Army that was increasingly Out-of-Balance. Demand for our forces exceeded sustainable supply. Our Reserve Components were being called on to perform in a role for which they were neither designed nor resourced. Our Soldier and Family support systems were significantly strained by multiple deployments and insufficient recovery time. Overall, our readiness was being consumed as fast as we could build it.

After taking command, Hondo took on all of those challenges and led the execution of the Army's efforts to restore balance. And largely because of his passion, his vision, his imagination, and his organizational skills, we are moving to a point where we can sustain repeated deployments with a level of predictability that is so critical to sustaining our Soldiers and Families. And Hondo, that wasn't a given. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

In addition, Hondo was successful in revamping the role of our Reserve Components; moving them from their role as a strategic Reserve into a truly operational force.

As I visit troops around the world, I see a commonality in the quality of training and readiness across our force. And that credit goes to Hondo and the Soldiers of Forces Command and First Army. Hondo has been the strongest advocate for the Citizen-Soldiers and for operationalizing the Reserve Component-and we are a better Army for it.

And finally, Hondo, if I didn't have enough work for you, FORSCOM has been the leader in driving the Army's institutional change, and you more than anyone have made Army Force Generation a reality. [APPLAUSE]

Now I think we know that Hondo is a very proper general officer, and he always conducts himself as a southern gentleman. He even plays polo out here on the lawn. And this may in part explain why he waited so long to marry because I'm sure he wanted to continue to educate and refine himself until he felt he met Dianne's standards. Dianne, our Army Family will miss you. You've left an indelible mark on the communities that you've served. You are living proof that all you have to do is read the regulation and everybody else will make you look good. Through your efforts, you've improved the quality of life for our spouses, children, Soldiers, and Wounded Warriors, and your work at the Shepherd Center here in Atlanta has really strengthened the cooperation between [their] researchers and our Soldiers. Your participation in forums like the Army Family Action Plan and the AUSA Family Readiness Group symposiums enable our newest and our most senior spouses to share ideas and work together to improve quality of life for our Families. So Dianne, Sheila and I want to thank you for all you've done over the last fifteen years for Soldiers and Families. [APPLAUSE]

Today we also welcome Hondo's successor, [GEN] J.D. Thurman. James David Thurman and his wife, Dee, and their family and friends. J.D. knows full well the challenges that FORSCOM faces because as the Army G-3, he caused most of them. {Laughter}

He is now in a position to appreciate what those folks at platoon headquarters really can do for you. And there are probably few headquarters in the Army that J.D. talked to more than the one he's about to enter. He's well prepared. In his thirty-five years of service to our Army, he's spent almost twenty-eight and a half [years] as a Commander and Operations Officer. So to lead FORSCOM as it continues to make a difference in this fight, he will bring with him a wealth of timely and relevant experience. And J.D., we wish you and Dee good luck here in your new endeavor. [APPLAUSE]

Hondo, as you step off the field today, you leave behind a great legacy of service. And I was struck by what you said in 2007 when you took command here. You told the men and women of FORSCOM: "Master your craft. Tend to your kit. Have pride in your colors. Obey your orders. Be loyal to your leaders. Be a friend to your comrades. And be a selfless servant to those who have been placed in your charge." Hondo, you and Dianne can be proud to know that in your service to your Army and to your Nation, you have lived up to the high standards that you set for the men and women that you lead. And it doesn't get any better than that. Good luck to you and God speed.

Page last updated Mon June 7th, 2010 at 10:23