Townsend assumes command of division
December 6, 2012
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- On a chilly Monday morning, Soldiers, Family Members and friends of the Fort Drum community bade a bittersweet farewell to one command team and gave another a warm North Country welcome, as Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley relinquished command of Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) to Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend during a ceremony in Magrath Gym.
After the traditional passing of the colors, which symbolizes the transfer of command, responsibilities and authority from the outgoing commander to the incoming commander, Lt. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, XVIII Airborne Corps commander, addressed audience members.
"It is incredibly humbling to be able to participate and witness this transition of leadership," Allyn said. "Today we recognize the extraordinary service and achievement of the 10th Mountain Division and the combat-proven prowess of Maj. Gen. Mark A. Milley and his incredible bride, Holly-anne."
While this marks a new beginning, it also symbolizes the mark of another tremendous chapter in the division's storied history, Allyn said.
"(Milley) has led this renowned formation with distinction for over the past year, where again and again, demands of the battlefield required agility and a responsive action from the 'Climb to Glory' team to prepare trained and ready forces on short notice for missions beyond their prescribed battle focus, and every time this division superbly lead units and troops they delivered on time, on target and with absolute success," he continued.
Most recently, 10th Mountain Division Soldiers responded swiftly to the nation's call, deploying to the New York City and New Jersey region to provide critical relief to communities dealing with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy, Allyn said.
"Your shared vision, courage and engaged leadership permeates throughout the division, leaving a lasting and undeniable legacy," he added.
"As we bid farewell to (the Milleys)," Allyn continued, "we welcome another great command team back to Fort Drum: Maj. Gen. Steve and Melissa Townsend. They are no strangers to the Climb to Glory team."
From 2000 to 2002, Townsend served as commander of 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, and he was the 10th Mountain Division's assistant chief of staff from June 2003 to July 2004.
"His most recent assignment, as director of the Pakistan and Afghanistan Coordination Cell Joint Staff, Washington, D.C., will be an asset to the division," Allyn explained.
After a round of applause, Milley addressed the crowd.
"This ceremony is not about the Milleys or the Townsends; it's about those colors and what they represent," he said. "It's about the officers, noncommissioned officers and enlisted Soldiers you see in front of you.
"In Memorial Park, there are 292 names engraved since 9/11, and we have another six names to add and honor in our next Remembrance Ceremony," Milley added.
"That is an incredible sacrifice," he said. "From Po Valley all the way to Kandahar and beyond, this division has written its legacy and made its sacrifices with the very blood, pain and sorrows of the Families and Soldiers of this division for this country, and I couldn't be prouder to have served with and commanded these Soldiers."
"It's an unbelievable honor," Milley said. "It's an unbelievable challenge. And I am deeply humbled (by) all of them."
He also paid tribute to the leaders with whom he has served at Fort Drum.
"I could not be prouder of the group of commanders, sergeants major, officers and noncommissioned officers that I've been blessed with while serving up here," he added.
Milley took a moment to express how much he and his Family will miss their home in the North Country.
"Yes, I was born in Boston, and, yes, my wife hails from Atlanta, but it's the North Country we call home," he said. "It's here where our children grew up. It's here where they went to school, and it's here where I served as a field grade officer and a brigade commander, and this is our home."
Before turning over the podium, Milley expressed his confidence in the next leader of the 10th Mountain Division.
"Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend … is the right guy, for the right time, to lead this division," Milley told those gathered. "There is no other officer, no other general in the Army today who knows more about Afghanistan than Stephen, and he will lead this division in ways and new heights that very few ever could."
Applause rang out as Milley concluded his statements and Townsend approached the podium to address the division as its commander for the first time.
"If you can't tell yet, I'm absolutely thrilled to be here," Townsend said. "I think there is only one person here today that's more thrilled than me, and that's my wife Melissa. She loves the North Country! She's very happy to be here, as am I."
Townsend then turned his attention to Allyn.
"Dragon Six," he said, "you can count on the 10th Mountain Division to remain ready as a force choice for America's contingency corps."
He then thanked the Milleys and wished them well at their next assignment.
To the leaders, Soldiers, civilians and Family Members of the legendary 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum, Townsend made a final pledge.
"I promise I'll lead from a foundation of Army values, warrior ethos and mission command," he said. "I will ensure the division and installation remains ready to rapidly deploy skilled, tough and confident formations wherever America needs our Army to deter, shape, fight and win.
"I promise to lead you by example," Townsend concluded. "To paraphrase a great leader named Winston (Churchill), 'I don't have much to offer, but you'll have my blood, sweat and tears.'"