FORT HOOD, Texas - With the traditional passing of the colors, the 1st Cavalry Division welcomed its new commanding general during a change of command ceremony here Jan. 7.

Hundreds of family members, friends and Soldiers packed Cooper Field as Maj. Gen. Michael Bills relinquished command of the First Team to Maj. Gen. J.T. Thomson.

"Since March 4, 2014, this team of teams has accomplished an impressive variety of missions around the world," said Bills. "We've sent battalion-sized or larger elements on 22 deployments to 11 countries. From Afghanistan and the Sinai to Korea and Latvia, from the United Arab Emirates and Cuba, to Germany and Kuwait; Troopers of the First Team remained tirelessly engaged around the world."

All of this was made possible by one crucial group -supporting family members, he said.

"Our troopers have driven hundreds of thousands of miles, fired millions of rounds, pulled countless hours in our motor pools and warehouses, all to provide the Army with ready forces," Bills said. "All this wouldn't be possible without the tremendous support of our 37,000 family members who serve in their own way, so our troopers can serve in our national defense."

As Bills gave his closing remarks in preparation for his departure to the Republic of Korea for his next assignment, he praised the division for truly living the legend.

"We, the First Team, exist to deter aggression, and where aggression fails, to fight and win," he said. "We do this by maintaining our tools of war and continually training for the next fight. It is a job without end, for freedom must be earned every day. That price is paid by the brave men and women you see in front of you, and others like them. The Soldiers and leaders of this magnificent division worked tirelessly to accomplish each and every mission our nation gave them, and I am proud to have served alongside them."

Thomson, who arrived after his assignment as the 75th Commandant of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, is no stranger to Texas. He's a native of Tyler, Texas and has served and led the 4th Infantry Division and 41st Fires Brigade here.

But his experience with the First Team began at a much earlier age, he said.

"My first tour with the 1st Cav was back in 1974 as a bat boy for the division's baseball team," Thomson recalled. "The coach was a platoon sergeant in 1-7 Cav. At the first game, every time something good happened the coach yelled 'Garry Owen.' Since my father served in that higher numbered armored division on the other side of post, I was familiar with "Hell on Wheels", but had not heard of "Garry Owen". 1st Cav beat up on 2AD pretty good, so I went looking for Garry Owen's autograph. Being unsuccessful, the coach, Sgt. 1st Class Ditmar grabbed me and said, 'Hey knucklehead, Garryowen isn't a person - it's a way of life. You have to earn it and live it.' And so life began in the Cav."

Thomson said he's happy to be back at his old stomping grounds - a community that truly supports its service members.

"To the extraordinary Central Texas community, thank you for your tremendous support of our Nation's sons and daughters. There is no finer place to serve. Your genuine love of our Soldiers and families make Central Texas the center of the universe."

As the ceremony came to an end and final goodbyes were exchanged, Thomson said he looks forward to having the reins of America's First Team.

"The gates of freedom remain open today because of all you do," said Thomson. "Readiness and mission accomplishment have been, and remain, our watchwords. I am enormously grateful for your sacrifices and look forward to serving in your ranks."