III Corps commander, wife reflect on 19-month stay at Great Place
April 21, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas - With the III Corps' change of command slated for 10 a.m. on Sadowski Field April 21, III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Bob Cone and his wife, Jill, took time April 19 to reflect on the past 19 months of command time in an interview at III Corps headquarters' Phantom Warrior Studio.
"We never wanted to leave Fort Hood," the general told Sgt. 1st Class Frank Minnie of the III Corps Public Affairs Office during the interview. "For the record, I was asked what I wanted to do, and I said, 'I'd like to stay at Fort Hood for another year.' Then the Chief of Staff of the Army said, 'Yeah, right.'"
Cone is slated to assume command of the U.S. Army's Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va., April 29. While he personally spent less than a year in Texas during his time in command here, Cone said what stood out to him was the close relationship between the installation and the community.
"(It's) remarkable," the general told Minnie during the interview. "You need to look no further than to the events of the 5th of November and the subsequent weeks and months after that. That could have been a really destabilizing event for our community. But for a community that is as cohesive as ours is, I think we got through that."
He said Fort Hood's ability to continue to deploy Soldiers and the success of a number of programs on the installation, established in the aftermath of that tragedy, "... is a credit to the resiliency of the Fort Hood Soldier, family member and their relationship with the community."
For Jill, she said what she'll remember most are the good friends she's made during this tour in Central Texas.
"We came here, and knew a few people, but when he deployed and was gone for a year ... I made a lot of great friendships that are probably deeper than a typical friendship on an Army post when it's a non-deployable unit," she said. "That's the best part about having been here."
Cone led III Corps during a yearlong deployment to Iraq which concluded in February. That deployment came during a historic time for Iraq, with the U.S. forces involvement there transitioning from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn. The general said improving the capabilities of the Iraqis themselves made for a successful transition, and is setting the stage for the eventual removal of U.S. forces from the country.
"When you look at where we (as an Army) have to be in order to go home this coming December, you have to realize the tremendous growth that has to take place in their capabilities that will allow that country to remain stable in the aftermath of a U.S. presence," Cone said. He noted that elections were held, even as the U.S. military presence in Iraq was halved to 50,000 troops, calling it an impressive feat attributed to the quality of America's Soldiers.
"You can do those kinds of things when you have an Army whose great strength is its decentralized leadership at lower levels," he said. "That was key to our success."
Fort Hood families have seen their Soldier deploy, return and deploy again, over and over for the past eight years. Jill said it takes someone special to be a part of the Army family.
"I think they accept what they have to accept," she began, "which is: this is a part of their life. I don't think it's ever easy. I think it's probably harder for the younger spouses who have young children and they're trying to manage so much on their own. My heart goes out to them, just as my admiration goes out to them. Just me on my own, I had some days that were pretty tough, pretty tearful, but that's what those friends are for."
Looking ahead at his new assignment, Cone is excited about the opportunity to have an impact on the Army's leader development, education and doctrine development.
"To me, the future is this generation of young noncommissioned officers, Soldiers and officers," he said. "This is the generation that's gotten us through, really, the last seven years with their innovation, their creativity and their ability to operate on their own. The key challenge now, is to bring them into the Army, and have them change the Army culture so it is comfortable for them.
"We haven't invested in leader development the last 10 years," Cone continued. "We've been focused on the fight, sort of mortgaging the future. But what we've got to do is pay back on leader development programs for our younger generation."
Following the change of command, the Cones will head east to Virginia and a new assignment. Jill will most miss, "The weather, except for in the summer," she said with a smile, "and, of course, the people. The community ... it's such a friendly area that it's hard to imagine any other place will be this much fun or this friendly."
When asked what message he would like to impart to the Fort Hood troops he leaves behind, Cone said, "What I always tell Soldiers is always remember that they are the best of our country. There are so few people in our country that willingly step forward ... raise their right hand and offer to do something for their nation. Not only do they do that, but they're doing that in a time of war. Recognize that. Recognize your contribution to your nation. The Army is about Soldiers. You're part of the team, we appreciate your contribution and all that you do for us."
Cone, who will be promoted to general prior to assuming command of TRADOC April 29, relinquishes command of III Corps and Fort Hood to newly-promoted Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell April 21. Campbell's promotion precedes the 10 a.m. ceremony at III Corps headquarters.