Maj. Gen. McDonald relinquishes command to Maj. Gen. Smith
April 9, 2012
Three words that are etched in stone in front of the cannons in front of the United States Army Cadet Command at Fort Knox and words that newly promoted Maj. Gen. Jeff Smith learned as a young ROTC cadet at Ohio State.
On Friday, Smith took the reins as Fort Knox's senior commander and commander of the U.S. Cadet Command from outgoing Commander Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald.
McDonald became the first Cadet Command commander to also lead an installation upon the discontinuation ceremony U.S. Accessions Command in January.
"(On a) day like today it's hard to leave Kentucky," McDonald said after relinquishing command to Smith.
He also thanked the Soldiers on Brooks Field who participated in the change of command.
"Thanks for what you do today and thanks for what you do for our country every day," McDonald said.
McDonald pointed out that Soldiers also take great pride in the installation.
"You make Fort Knox a great place to work and Soldier and call home," he said.
McDonald also thanked his senior enlisted advisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Hershel Turner, for being his "battle buddy."
In his stint as senior commander McDonald continued the tradition of working with the installation's community partners. He added that he has been extremely proud of the partnership and the community for supporting its Soldiers.
He also thanked his wife Connie for her support of Soldiers and their Families.
"Connie, you always put Soldiers and their Families first," explained McDonald. "It is well known (that) without her I would be a heap of beer-stained denim. (I'm) proud to have the opportunity and spend some time to make this place better."
He jokingly added that Smith is tailor made for this position because of his Tennessee roots.
Lt. Gen. John Sterling, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command deputy commanding general and chief of staff, said the day marked a significant event in Cadet Command.
He said it was a great honor, "because of the tremendous accomplishments of the outgoing commander. (Today's) ceremony marks a sequence of events that lead to my retirement," he added.
Sterling mentioned that in a few weeks he will travel to Fort Sill, Okla., pass the color to McDonald in a change of command ceremony and Maj. Gen. David Halverson, Fort Sill's outgoing commander will replace Sterling as TRADOC's DCG upon his retirement.
Sterling praised McDonald for his tour of service at Fort Knox. He said McDonald has been responsible for the commissioning of more than 5,000 officers.
"This is a challenging and important mission," explained Sterling. "Mark came to this job as Cadet Command was moving from Fort Monroe, Va., (and) the mission only got more demanding as the Army grew to over 570,000 Soldiers … (the mission) was placed on Mark's capable shoulders.
"Faced with this tough growing mission, Cadet Command has responded tremendously (and) continued to provide the Army with high-quality officers."
Sterling noted that McDonald was also successful in placing officers in hard to fill positions within the Army. He also commended McDonald on his success with the nations JROTC programs.
"During Mark's tenure JROTC (students) have continued to lead (schools in high) grade point averages," he said. "The Army will reap the benefits from the officers developed under your leadership."
Although McDonald had remarkable success as the commander of Cadet Command, Sterling said some of that can be attributed to his wife Connie.
"I want to thank the person who has allowed Mark to be successful -- his wife Connie," Sterling said. "(Connie, you) continue to provide the love and support that allows Mark to sustain. You are truly unique."
Sterling said as Knox says goodbye to one great Soldier, the Army has provided the post with another great leader in Smith and his wife Starla.
Prior to the change of command ceremony, Smith was promoted to the rank of major general. In addition to the normal two hats worn by the senior commander, Smith will continue overseeing the U.S. Army Accessions Command Discontinuance Task Force until its inactivation is complete in September.
Smith said he was humbled to take command.
"What can be more exciting than producing new officers?" he asked the crowd. "(I) look forward to joining your ranks and (I will) work tirelessly for you."
Smith added that he has a unique opportunity in being the commander of Fort Knox and Cadet Command.
"(It's) an awesome responsibility, I can't think of anything I would rather be doing," he said.
Smith also thanked McDonald and Connie for the positive impact they had on Fort Knox.
"I intend to fulfill the things he had as senior commander and build on his successes," Smith said.
Being at Knox is a homecoming for Smith. Born in Elizabethtown, he left Hardin County when he was four years old. His late father retired from the Army as a sergeant major and his mother graduated from Fort Knox High School.
Like his predecessor, Smith said he will continue to work with the post's community partners.
"(I) consider the community (to be) part of Fort Knox," he explained. "(It's) only fitting (that) we continue to build on that relationship (so the) community feels part of the installation. Part of our responsibility is to serve both on and off the installation."
Although Smith continues to serve as the commander of the task force, he said the discontinuation is slightly ahead of schedule.
"U.S. Army Accessions Command will be discontinued on target or on schedule," he said. "Major functions (have) been transferred to (the Human Resources Command), Army G-1 or marketing in Washington, (D.C.)."
Unlike most commanders who take command of an installation, Smith has a slight advantage because he has been working on post for a few months and he's had an opportunity to work and meet the people on Fort Knox.
"Another aspect in my role is (I) had the opportunity to learn about the U.S. Recruiting Command and Cadet Command and how they do business," he said. "(It's) been beneficial for me personally getting to know (the) local community."
As Smith takes the lead of Cadet Command and walks through its doors he will remember the words he learned as a young cadet.
, Duty- obedience and disciplined performance despite difficulty or danger. Duty requires self-responsibility.
, Honor -- encompassing integrity and dedication. Honor is the thread that holds together the fabric of our Army.
, Country- for the men and women who have given their lives or country shines as the light of freedom and dignity to the world.