By GUIDON staffMarch 6, 2014
Brig. Gen. Peggy Combs relinquished command of the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School in a Monday morning ceremony.
Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, presided over the ceremony.
Combs will be assigned to Fort Knox, Ky., as the next U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox commanding general.
Col. Jeffrey Brodeur, USACBRNS assistant commandant will serve as the acting commandant until later this year when Brig. Gen. Maria Gervais, currently the U.S. Army Cadet Command's deputy commanding general, will officially replace Combs.
Gervais is no stranger to Fort Leonard Wood. She was the first female to lead the 82nd Chemical Battalion and is a former chief of staff for the Army Chemical School and Maneuver Support Center of Excellence.
Combs spoke of her fondness for the Fort Leonard Wood area.
"There is no greater community," Combs said, the 27th Chief of Chemical. "Everyone truly cares about the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and the Marines who serve here. This community pours their heart out to any Family in need on this post, and it's just exceptional."
"Although I will now have to remove my CBRN brassard from my right sleeve, it will always be a part of my heart," she added.
Combs answered questions for the GUIDON staff about the regiment.
Q. What is the status of the regiment?
A. The regiment is incredibly strong, and that's directly contributable to all the outstanding officers, noncommissioned officers, Soldiers, and DA civilians representing this great regiment throughout the world.
I could not be more proud to have led this regiment and the CBRN School -- oh, how the time just flew by.
The regiment is poised to adapt and continue its transition from a legacy formation with 73 percent of the CBRN force dedicated to decontamination and biological detection to a force that is agile and ready to support combatant commanders in the full spectrum of CBRN threats and hazards.
Q. What would you like to say to the Soldiers, civilians and all those in the regiment?
A. Thank you. I would like to personally thank all our Dragon Soldiers and CBRN professionals for the excellent work and incredible effort as we transition the regiment.
We will soon embark on the transition from a legacy formation into a technically capable response force that is ready to defeat all hazards and material threats to counter weapons of mass destruction well ahead of 2020.
Q. What is the future of the Regiment?
A. Our future is relevancy --CBRN is "could be right now." We must be ready. Our craft and technical expertise is in high demand, not only overseas but also at home.
As the regiment moves ahead, we will see our latest Force Design Update create a standard operational CBRN battalion throughout the Army (active component, National Guard and Army Reserve) consisting of three hazard response companies and one technical escort company.
This eliminates the stand-alone design of the technical escort battalion and provides maneuver commanders with a greater ability to leverage our force to conduct Counter WMD (weapons of mass destruction) operations and address homeland defense requirements.
Our Dragon Soldiers and enterprise is already looking beyond the known to determine how the regiment can continue to adapt to provide our Army with the best CWMD and CBRN hazards response force possible.
Q. How has your vision helped keep the regiment viable in today's Army?
A. CBRN hazards and threats continue to make front page news in places like North Korea, Syria, Iran, and even here in the homeland.
Now, more than ever, our nation is counting on us to be prepared for, to prevent the use of, to protect against, to respond to, and to recover from the accidental release or deliberate use of these hazards.
We have reinvested our resources to evolve into a force that plans, assesses, characterizes, advises and mitigates all hazardous materials through the range of military operations.
Q. What will you miss most about the MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood?
A. All the great people I've been privileged to work with. Fort Leonard Wood is home. There's not a greater team than that which exists here at the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and the Waynesville/St Robert communities.
I've spent a little more than my fair share of time here at Fort Leonard Wood over the past 10 years and have come to love this community.
Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith is a pioneer in our regiment as the first chemical officer to command the Maneuver Support Center, and his team of Soldiers and civilians has been top notch and supportive of the Regiment and our initiatives to move forward.
My staff at the CBRN School and the team of the 3rd CBRN Brigade has led the way in training our CBRN warriors and moving the regiment ahead.
Q. What is your most significant achievement as commandant?
A. Everything attributable to me is merely a direct reflection of the outstanding team I work with each and every day within our regiment and the CBRN School.
I am honored to have served as the 27th Chief of Chemical. My achievement is continuing the great work of the previous commandants in aligning our force with an ability to respond to all CBRN hazards.
This has ensured the regiment remains viable and valued by the Army and has provided a platform for continued growth.
Q. What are your closing thoughts?
A. The motto of our regiment is "Elementis Regamus Proelium," or "We Rule the Battle Through the Elements."
I believe these elements are our operational intellect, technical competence and capabilities, and the professionalism of our 20,600 dedicated, motivated, and committed CBRN professionals.
It has been the greatest honor to be the 27th Chief of Chemical and Commandant of the U.S. Army CBRN School.
I look forward to continued service with our great Dragon Soldiers and CBRN professionals.
(Editor's note: GUIDON reporters Dawn Arden and Melissa Buckley contributed to this article.)