SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Lt. Gen. James Terry, commanding general, United States Army Central, never dreamed he would be in the Army and commanding one of the main and most far-reaching Army Service Component Commands in the force.
When he entered North Georgia College in 1974 to continue his "Georgia public education," he still thought he would end up working in a local carpet mill. Instead, as often happens to young college students, his degree plans changed and, four years later, he was donning Class B khakis. He commissioned as an infantry officer in the United States Army and his life would never be the same.
"I haven't looked back since," the commanding general said confidently. "I could not be more proud of this Army. Think about the transitions we have lived through while exceeding expectations and the challenges we continue to face. It's humbling."
Just days away from retiring after a long and exemplary career, during which he deployed five times and commanded troops in combat during two different operations, Terry cited his greatest accomplishments as "leading and commanding Soldiers and units through complex environments." He stressed his pride in what the 10th Mountain Division accomplished under his command in Operation Enduring Freedom. As the task force commander there, his team was responsible for the command and control of coalition military forces in RC-South, which encompassed five of Afghanistan's southern provinces.
"It was the heartland of the Taliban, near Kandahar," Terry said. "I'm proud of what we did for the Afghan people," referring to the security they provided and how they trained the Afghan soldiers. "That area is still holding," with an expression revealing pride in the accomplishment.
Terry also spoke with admiration about the accomplishments of the Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve.
"As the Combined Forces Land Component for CENTCOM, we moved into the Operation Inherent Resolve mission quickly and then transitioned into the Combined Joint Task Force," he said. He credited USARCENT and its subordinate commands' forward presence in the region, anticipation of hostile events, and the command's continuity through relations with countries in the region for their success. Terry noted that USARCENT has established itself three times since 2001 as a Combined Joint Task Force to conduct unified land operations in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and most recently Operation Inherent Resolve.
Given the persistent call to duty, Terry expressed concerns about USARCENT reductions, noting that the command will be significantly reduced by the start of fiscal year 2017.
"We'll have a hard time, frankly, doing what we just did in Operation Inherent Resolve, because of that," he said.
Referring to the increasing demand for Army capabilities and mission command in the Central Command area of responsibility, he described the situation as having potential for a "rising requirements to capability-gap shortfall."
Terry thanked the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines from the 50 nations that have served under his commands -- "and especially their families because families sacrifice just like service members." He also said it has been a privilege serving in the Midlands of South Carolina. He wanted to specifically thank the Sumter community.
"Sumter welcomes the Army presence and we're proud to be a part of the Sumter community," Terry said. "It's been a tremendous team effort. There are so many people to thank it is simply impossible to thank everyone."
Looking around the corner to retirement, Terry said, "I plan to do nothing, real fast," adding, "I always said that when I retired I was going to shave my head, grow a beard, and walk the Appalachian Trail, but I'm not so sure now!"
The retiring commanding general said he will relax, reconnect with the family, and ponder what comes next. After multiple stints as a wartime commanding general, it's a well-earned and welcomed opportunity to figure out how to contribute to the world in a different capacity.