From left, Col. Erik Peterson, outgoing 10th Mountain Division (LI) chief of staff; Col. Thomas D. Macdonald, incoming division chief of staff; Col. Walter E. Piatt, incoming division deputy commanding general - support, and Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, render honors during the playing of the national anthem July 19 during the Mountain Salute on Sexton Field.

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- The 10th Mountain Division (LI) command group conducted a Mountain Salute ceremony Thursday at Sexton Field for the outgoing chief of staff, the incoming deputy commanding general - support and the incoming chief of staff.

Soldiers, Family Members and friends first honored Col. Erik Peterson, the division's outgoing chief of staff, who was accompanied by his wife, Kristin, and his two daughters, Katie and Jackie. All three received red roses as a token of the division's gratitude for their unwavering support of Soldiers, Family Members and the greater North Country community.

During the ceremony, Peterson looked back at his time at Fort Drum and thanked the community for its support.

"I'm not sure if it's the climate or some temporal phenomenon unique to the North Country, but five years sure goes fast around here," Peterson said. "We have been welcomed by the community since the day we arrived, and I would like to thank them for that."

Also honored during the ceremony was Col. Walter E. Piatt, the division's incoming deputy commanding general - support, and Col. Thomas D. Macdonald, incoming chief of staff.

Piatt's new position was formerly held by Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl, who now serves as deputy commanding general - support under Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Afghanistan.

Piatt was accompanied by his wife, Cynthia, who received yellow roses; daughter, Jessica, who received a single red rose; and son, Joshua, who received a 10th Mountain Division coin.

Macdonald was accompanied by his wife, Amy, and daughter, who received yellow roses.

The yellow roses symbolized the warmest of welcomes and the community's heartfelt wishes for good friendships and wonderful memories during each Family's new journey.

The division was fully represented at the ceremony by Soldiers lined up on the field facing audience members and holding unit colors.

The 10th Mountain Division Band performed several songs during the ceremony, including the national anthem.

Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley, Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, described Peterson as the rock on which the entire division had rested.

"For half a decade, Peterson and his lovely wife, Kristin, have devoted everything to the Soldiers and the Families of this division," Milley said. "His accomplishments are an absolute testament to his devotion not only to this division but to the entire Army."

Milley then welcomed the two new leaders by describing their credentials.

"Walt has 73 months in combat and has commanded at both battalion and brigade levels in combat," the general said. "He has an incredible combat experience in multiple theaters, and his last assignment was as the 52nd commandant of the United States Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, (Ga.)."

"Macdonald comes to us with a wealth of light infantry experience," Milley added. "I personally saw his exceptional and incredible combat leadership on the violent streets of Baghdad, when he was a battalion commander in the 1st Cavalry Division."

Piatt then took the stage to thank Milley for being able to join the 10th Mountain Division (LI).

"It's like I have been given the opportunity to play basketball with Michael Jordan," Piatt said. "It is very intimidating, but I wouldn't miss it for the world.

"I am proud to be your friend, and once again your neighbor," he added.

Macdonald told the gathering of Soldiers, friends and Family Members that he is proud to be a part of the division and the greater North Country.

"I am thrilled to join such a professional and cohesive team," Macdonald said. "My Family and I are looking forward to becoming members of the Fort Drum and Watertown communities."

The ceremony concluded with the singing of the 10th Mountain Division Song and the Army Song.

Page last updated Thu July 26th, 2012 at 00:00