Maj. Gen. James B. Linder took command of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, May 4, during a ceremony at the JFK Plaza hosted by Lt. Gen. Charles Cleveland, commander, U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Linder, the former commander of Special Operations Command-Africa, headquartered at Kelley Barracks near Stuttgart, Germany, is replacing Wendt, who is assuming the duties of Chief of Staff, U.S. Pacific Command at Camp H.M. Smith near Honolulu, Hawaii.
"No Army Special Operations officer can match the accrued knowledge and expertise of Maj. Gen. Wendt," said Cleveland. "There is no doubt Eric will leave his mark on U.S. security before he leaves uniform."
Cleveland applauded the numerous initiatives Wendt initiated and put into place within the Army during his short time at the USAJFKSWCS, and his ability to build relationships across the Army. "Eric has a unique ability to explain SOF, and that is a powerful skill," he said.
"I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School for their tremendous innovations and world-class work over the last year, and for upholding the highest standards," said Wendt. "I praise the people and the institution of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, and also thank the local communities and associations that have provided so much support to the Special Warfare Center and School in the last year."
Cleveland went on to note that he could not have found a better replacement for Wendt than Linder, noting that he brings a wealth of experience back to SWCS from his time at SOC Africa, as well as his ingenuity, expertise and sense of humor. Linder is not a stranger to the school house, having commanded the support battalion and served as Deputy Commanding Officer, 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne).
The USAJFKSWCS, the Army's Special Operations Center of Excellence, is comprised of three groups, the 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne), the Special Warfare Education Group (Airborne) and the Special Warfare Medical Group (Airborne). Additionally, it is home to the Special Forces Warrant Officer Institute, the Noncommissioned Officer Academy and the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Center.
Linder is also a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, the Naval War College and holds master's degrees in International Relations and in National Security and Strategic Studies from Webster University and the U.S. Naval War College, respectively.
He served in a variety of troop and staff assignments in the 82nd Airborne Division, 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment (Airborne) and 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). He also served in multiple positions within Special Operations, followed by a staff assignment in the Joint Special Operations Command.
Upon completion of a Senior Service College Fellowship at the CIA, Linder commanded the Joint Special Operations Task Force--Philippines, followed by an assignment at the Joint Staff.
After serving as the Chief of Staff of the United States Army Special Operations Command, Linder was the Deputy Commanding General -- Special Operations Forces, NATO Training Mission--Afghanistan; with a follow-on assignment as the Deputy J3 for United States Africa Command.
Linder has received qualifications as a Master Parachutist, Military Free Fall Master Parachutist, Special Forces Combat Diver Supervisor, Ranger and Special Forces.
Having already experienced the complexity of the USAJFKSWCS, Linder is ready to get back to business. To that end, Linder related a story from his time at SOC Africa.
"Imagine a small group of soldiers on a presence patrol in their local community, a community that has grown in fondness for these soldiers because they have consistently demonstrated that their duty is to protect those who can't protect themselves," he said. "They have heard the stories of Boko Haram's brutality … and only last week, they strapped a body bomb on an innocent 10-year-old little girl -- walked her into the public market and detonated her; killing nine and wounding others. The town is now nervous and alert."
"Now imagine these soldiers walking their daily presence patrols through town when a woman no one recognizes … attempts to fling herself on a bus loaded with people. The passengers block her, close the door and attempt to speed away," he explained that the woman, unable to mount the bus, attempted to leap on the back of a soldier, but was stopped by another soldier who placed a well-aimed shot and prevented her from detonating another body bomb in the area.
The story is true. The outcome, Linder explains, was different because of the relationship between the African soldiers, who had been working side-by-side U.S. Green Berets for the past five months, and because their Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations counterparts had shaped the local community.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Special Warfare Center. This is where the U.S. Army's Special Operations warriors are built," said Linder. "Today we pause briefly to recognize the contributions of Maj. Gen. Eric Wendt and the extraordinary men and women of this magnificent command. At the conclusion of this ceremony, we return to the business of securing the idea of liberty. We return to the business of defeating violent extremist. We return to the business of building Army Special Operations Warriors."