JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Friends, family, and fellow leaders honored Brig. Gen. Paul Bontrager, outgoing deputy commanding general of Support, 7th Infantry Division, for his nearly two years with the division during a farewell ceremony at Joint Base Lewis McChord's French Theater Nov. 13, 2015.
Maj. Gen. Thomas James, commanding general of 7th ID, had nothing but good things to say about Bontrager, as a leader and as a friend.
"Paul has a unique, humble confidence that inspires subordinates and builds teams with ease," said James. "He possesses all of those leadership attributes and competencies that define our very best leaders."
As the deputy commanding general of support, Bontrager was said to have been an invaluable leader who enabled the division to build and sustain readiness.
"He leads from the front and is able to steady an organization in the toughest situations, said James. "His leadership and expertise made a huge impact on critical personnel and maintenance systems."
James presented Bontrager with the Legion of Merit and inducted him into the Order of the Bayonet, a prestigious award given to those whose performance is deemed to be above and beyond the call of duty, for his outstanding service while assigned to the 7th ID.
"Bontrager has served this division, I Corps, and our Army with passion, distinction and honor," said James. "He is a leader that our Soldiers deserve."
James then turned the floor over to Bontrager, as the applause filled the theater.
Bontrager thanked everyone for their support and taking their time to attend the ceremony. He said that when he and his wife heard there was a ceremony being planned, there was a brief hesitation before he finally accepted.
"When general James said he wanted to do this ceremony, we kind of cringed a little bit", Bontrager said, speaking for himself and his wife. "Why would we take people's time, especially this late on a Friday?"
"I think we are violating at least one Corps policy," he said with a smile on his face. "But then we thought about it and thought just how selfish and horrible is it to not take the time to thank people, or to think that we could have any personal or organizational success, by ourselves, without this community supporting us."
Bontrager said that in every job, there was growing to be done and the quickest way to do that was to see who was successful, see who has the attributes and characteristics that seem to work and then following their lead.
Bontrager said as he has gotten older, he realized that he had stopped quoting the usual familiar names from history and relied more and more on quotes from his seventh grade educated mother.
"Never miss an opportunity to say something positive," he said. "I could not have imagined growing into a general officer anywhere other than JBLM. [It was] exactly what I needed and what I relied on without fail."
"It has been fantastic," he added. "And in closing, I hope you feel the love we have for everyone here at JBLM."
Bontrager will transition to Fort Drum, New York and assume the duties of the 10th Mountain Division's acting senior commander and lead the majority of the division's combat power while most of the division is currently deployed in Afghanistan.