MCoE gets new commandants
August 8, 2012
By Vince Little
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Aug. 8, 2012) -- Fort Benning honored its new chiefs of Infantry and Armor on Friday.
Cols. David Haight and Paul Laughlin were formally welcomed to the Maneuver Center of Excellence during a ceremony at McGinnis-Wickam Hall's Marshall Auditorium. They are the 53rd and 47th commandants of their respective schools, replacing Col. Walter Piatt and Brig. Gen. Thomas James, who left in June.
"I hope you can feel the power of the Maneuver Center," Maj. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the MCoE and Fort Benning commanding general, told the audience. "It's powerful because we are part of such a great community, a living, historical community that has inherited a legacy of excellence from those who have gone before us. And we are doing our best to preserve that legacy and build on it.
"I know Dave Haight and Paul Laughlin already recognize how fortunate they are to be a part of these communities, and we recognize how fortunate we are to have them as the newest leaders here at the Maneuver Center. … Our Army did pick the best leaders to continue that legacy."
To showcase the "Spirit of Fort Benning," 10 Soldiers emerged on stage wearing period uniforms ranging from the American Revolution to modern day, standing as a tribute to the half a million troops who have trained here since the post's establishment as Camp Benning in October 1918.
Laughlin arrives from Heidelberg, Germany, where he was the executive officer for U.S. Army Europe's commanding general. Meanwhile, the new Infantry commandant's last assignment came as executive assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and deputy director of the Pakistan/Afghanistan coordination cell, J5, Joint Staff.
"I am absolutely stoked to not only join the team but to be at Fort Benning," Laughlin said, adding he spent only two weeks here previously in 2000 to learn more about the Stryker. "This is new to me, and I'm very excited by it all."
Laughlin was commissioned as an Armor second lieutenant after graduating from the University of Massachusetts. He earned master's degrees from the National War College and Central Michigan University.
The Armor chief praised the facilities, space and ranges at Fort Benning but said the real dividends come from the synergy of training alongside the Infantry.
"It's a powerful combination," he said. "We will get at and after combined-arms training much better than we've ever done before."
Haight was commissioned as an Infantry officer in 1986 after graduating from Brigham Young University as the ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate. He holds a master's degree in national security and strategic studies from the U.S. Naval Command and Staff College and another in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College.
He said he's been here several times for training stints but never as a permanent party member. His priorities and command philosophy are clear.
"Commanders set the priority, they set the example, they develop junior leaders and then they identify and mitigate risk every day," he said. "We've had a decade of conflict. … We have learned a lot of lessons, but not all the lessons are appropriate. With the needs of the Infantry, we have to implement the correct lessons learned."
As leaders set a path toward the Army of 2020, some hurdles lie ahead, Haight said.
"I never really liked the term 'do more with less,' but sometimes it's a necessity," he said. "We're going to be facing tightening belts and tightening budgets. We'll have to make do with fewer resources, and at the same time, we've got to keep training Soldiers … to stay proficient in kinetic skills, as well as not losing our core-competency skills. I think it's going to be a challenge."
Laughlin said the Army has overcome tough fiscal realities before, and this time will be no different.
"I see it as opportunities," he said. "Being with the Infantry on this installation, we will create and help develop a future generation of warriors who understand, that to accomplish … the Army's mission of fighting and winning wars, we've got to do so as a combined-arms team."
The mission at Fort Benning requires special leaders, those who are visionaries, possess a broad range of experience and understand warfare, the commanding general said.
"This is a real laboratory for our profession," he said. "These are the perfect leaders to join the team here at Fort Benning and the Maneuver Center. … Fort Benning is where we prepare combat leaders for their awesome responsibilities to build tough, physical, confident and competent teams that are determined to accomplish the mission and dedicated to each other.
"Fort Benning is where we ensure that our combined-arms team -- today and in the future -- has the ability to overwhelm the enemy … under all conditions of battle."