Hickman takes reins of JRTC, Fort Polk
November 16, 2012
Brig. Gen. William B. Hickman is the new commander of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk following a change of command ceremony Nov. 15 on Fort Polk's Headquarters Field.
Hickman comes to Fort Polk after serving as deputy commanding general (support) for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). He replaces Brig. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn who heads to an assignment with the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan.
The ceremony's reviewing officer, U.S. Forces Command commanding general Gen. David M. Rodriguez, told the more than 500 Soldiers and civilians assembled in bleachers, covered seating and formations on the field, that a change of command ceremony is as much about recognizing great Soldiers, civilians and Army Families as it is about the incoming and outgoing commanders.
"Therefore, I want to begin my comments by offering -- on behalf of all of Forces Command -- my thanks to each member of this installation for everything you do to prepare FORSCOM formations for deployment," Rodriguez said.
After giving a brief history of Fort Polk, Rodriguez said command of the historic post comes with a full
complement of challenges, including operational deployments, significant training responsibilities and strengthening important strategic partnerships. "There is no greater privilege than to lead American Soldiers," he said. "But commanding here, at one of the Army's three combat training centers, is a rare, and a very special opportunity."
Rodriguez highlighted Chinn's achievements during his 22-month tour as JRTC and Fort Polk's commander. "Brigadier General Chinn's insight and ability to remain relevant has enabled the JRTC and Fort Polk to provide our servicemen and women with the most realistic and challenging training possible," he said.
The FORSCOM commander thanked Chinn and his spouse, Val, for their service, then introduced Hickman and his spouse, Mayme, to the crowd. "Brigadier General Hickman is a proven leader of immense capability and worthy of the increased responsibility he receives today," Rodriguez said. "He brings a wealth of experience in both collective training and combat leadership."
Rodriguez said Hickman had spent his 29-year career in some of the most challenging assignments the Army has to offer. "Those same jobs and his unique experiences make him particularly qualified to lead Fort Polk at a time when we remain engaged in protracted conflict and an uncertain international security environment," he said.
Hickman is no stranger to preparing formations for conflict, Rodriguez said, especially since Hickman has traveled to the Joint Readiness Training Center on numerous occasions to prepare Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division for deployment.
"Bill Hickman has established his reputation Army-wide as an outstanding Soldier, a superb leader and a courageous warrior," he said. In the Hickman Family, Rodriguez said the Soldiers, civilians and Families of Fort Polk are getting a great command team.
"Today, we turn the page in the history of this great installation and begin a new chapter," he said. "As we do, we can be sure that the 'Home of Heroes' will continue to answer the nation's call."
Following Rodriguez to the podium was Chinn. He thanked those in attendance for being part of a great team. He told the Soldiers standing before him on Headquarters Field that no installation in the Army does more for the Army than Fort Polk.
"You have the three highest priority missions in the Army -- training brigade combat teams for Afghanistan, training advisors for the Afghanistan and the DCRF (Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Response Force) mission," Chinn said. "You are about missions accomplished, lives saved, forging the warrior spirit through realistic, relevant and rigorous training."
Chinn thanked the JRTC and Fort Polk staff members for their vision, courage and engaged leadership. He also thanked noncommissioned officers who gave him guidance during his early years in the Army.
"They taught me to set the standard every day in both word and deed," Chinn said.
Chinn then thanked local community leaders for their support. "This is the gold standard for the Army, and it isn't like this everywhere," he said. "We feel your communities embrace us every day. We appreciate the strong support."
Chinn closed by following an Army tradition: "We won't say goodbye," he said. "This is merely a God speed, until we meet again, keep your powder dry and I'll see you on the high ground."
Last to speak was the new JRTC and Fort Polk commander. Hickman said he is aware of Fort Polk's special relationship with Vernon, Beauregard, Rapides, Sabine and Calcasieu parishes.
"I look forward to continuing our close partnership," he said.
For the Fort Polk and JRTC communities, Hickman said it is an honor to join their ranks and serve the Army at this important time in the nation's history. "In the short time since my arrival, I have been very impressed with the energy and teamwork you demonstrate daily and your commitment to your mission," he said. "So thank you for all you've done. Your efforts and dedications have set us up here for success."
Hickman said the Soldiers in the formation before him on Headquarters Field were the picture of strength and spirit that is fitting of the heroes living at the Home of Heroes. He also thanked the 1st Cavalry Division Band from Fort Hood, Texas, for being part of the ceremony.
After thanking Rodriguez for the opportunity to serve as JRTC and Fort Polk commander, Hickman said he knows there are challenges ahead, but he's confident the current team is up to the task.
"I am committed to strengthening the positive partnerships that exist between our Soldiers, civilians, communities and retirees," he said. "The JRTC and Fort Polk is a sum of all its parts -- and the stronger our bonds the stronger and more effective we will be as a team."
Hickman said he has talked to many leaders and Soldiers who have trained at the JRTC.
"Their successes in Iraq, and now Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the world, are directly related to the training and preparation they have received here," he said. "Fort Polk's home station units have earned a great reputation for being combat ready, extremely capable and dedicated. Mayme and I are excited to now call Fort Polk home. We thank you for your warmth and Southern hospitality. This has been the most professional and thorough transition that we have experienced during our time in the Army. I am proud to join this magnificent team."
Prior to the ceremony, Hickman gave area media a chance to ask a few questions. He said it is an honor to be selected as JRTC and Fort Polk commander.
"The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk is one of the Army's premier training centers, and I'm excited about this opportunity to continue serving our Army," he said. "I appreciate the trust and support I've received from General Rodriguez, our Forces Command commander, and I look forward to working with our surrounding communities. The teamwork I've witnessed between members of the community and Fort Polk personnel is amazing. We'll work to strengthen those partnerships even more."
'Soldiers and Families my number 1 priorities'
"Our Soldiers and their Families have sacrificed much over the past 11 years," he said. "Their readiness and well being have always been -- and will continue to be -- a number one priority in the Army and at the JRTC and Fort Polk. Education, economic development and quality of life initiatives will also continue to be a top priority here. Those are important for all of us: Civilian and Soldier alike."
'Maintaining, strengthening community partnerships'
"The teamwork that exists between the State of Louisiana and Fort Polk is tremendous, and that doesn't happen everywhere," Hickman said. "Fort Polk is proud to stand with you, proud to have you as our neighbor. We value that partnership and the fact that we are in your neighborhood. Our collaboration ensures we remain the Best Hometown in the Army and the Home of Heroes."
'The future is bright for the JRTC and Fort Polk'
"I think you'll see the installation and the surrounding areas flourishing as they have done for years," he said. "The Army has invested more than $1 billion in Fort Polk since 2005, with more than $300 million spent in the last few years on infrastructure and quality of life initiatives, and you're going to see that continue over the next few years. Our military units are thriving and of primary importance to the Department of Defense."