By GUIDON staffJune 2, 2016
Brig. Gen. James Bonner assumed commandancy of the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School during a change-of-commandancy ceremony May 26 held in Lincoln Hall Auditorium.
Bonner replaces Brig. Gen. Maria Gervais, whose new assignment is as Combined Arms Center -- Training deputy commanding general at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Bonner arrives to Fort Leonard Wood after an assignment in Washington, D.C., as the director of Materiel, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8.
"As you can image, this is such a bittersweet moment for Chris and I," Gervais said. "Almost two years to the date, I stood up here telling you just how good it felt to be back home here at Fort Leonard Wood and just how thrilled we were to be joining the great Maneuver Support Center of Excellence team.
"This morning, I'm going to tell you just how much it is hurting to leave this unbelievable installation and this community that goes above the call of duty to take care of the Soldiers, Airman, Sailors, Marines, civilians and Family members. We can't thank you enough for all you do."
Under Gervais' leadership, the CBRN School expanded existing credentialing opportunities to include an Associate Emergency Manager certification, through partnership with the International Association of Emergency Managers. Additionally, the school implemented a 14-week CBRN Warrant Officer Basic Course and recently completed the first Warrant Officer Advanced Course.
Other accomplishment were a Force Design Update coupled with the fielding of the (Nuclear, Chemical, Biological, Reconnaissance Vehicle and the Dismounted Reconnaissance Set, Kit and Outfit are the most evolutionary changes to the Regiment in the past 30 years.
"These improve our ability to guard the force, protect the homeland and address the emerging CWMD mission our Army will lead for the Department of Defense," Gervais said.
Maj. Gen. Kent Savre, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, praised Gervais for her time as the 28th Chief of Chemical.
"There's no branch in our Army that has gained more positive momentum over the past few years, with respect to readiness, than the Chemical Corps," Savre said.
"That was a critical period in which Gen. Gervais has served as commandant and provided the exact right leadership, vision, direction and inspiration to drive change and posture the Chemical Corps for the unknown, unknowable and complex challenges that lie ahead and all while taking a total Army approach," Savre added.
Gervais' knowledge and critical thought on the complex challenges of countering weapons of mass destruction and conducting homeland defense have been at the forefront, Savre said.
Savre made reference to the Army's song words of "first to fight for the right and to build the nation's might, and the Army goes rolling along" to introduce Bonner as the CBRN School commandant.
"New leaders step up, and there is none finer than Brig. Gen. Jim Bonner to continue the momentum and lead the CBRN School into the future," Savre said.
Bonner has past connections to Fort Leonard Wood. He served as the 3rd Chemical Brigade's deputy commander from July 2008 to August 2009. He returned to Fort Leonard Wood as commander of the 3rd Chem. Bde. two years later.
In between his assignments on Fort Leonard Wood, the Anna, Illinois, native attended the U.S. Naval War College and deployed as part of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, where he served as the executive officer to the deputy chief of staff for joint operations, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command.
"I'm indeed honored in having the privilege to serve as the 29th Chief of Chemical," Bonner said. "This day would not have been possible without the training and mentoring I have received from many noncommissioned and commissioned officers throughout my career -- too many to name individually. To all of them I say, 'thank you, and I'm extremely grateful.'"
Bonner is also no stranger to the Ozarks.
"My wife and I are excited to be back in the Ozarks," Bonner said. "We're from the Midwest. Our daughters graduated from Waynesville High School. We look forward to being part of the community again and members of the MSCoE team."
Bonner was also deployed to OEF as the 23rd Chemical Battalion commander and Operation Just Cause in Panama as a chemical officer with the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
He is a 1988 distinguished military graduate from Southern Illinois University and earned a master's degree from Central Michigan University.
His military education includes the chemical officer's basic and advanced courses, basic Airborne, Ranger, Jumpmaster and Pathfinder schools. He is authorized to wear the Master Parachutist and Ranger badges as well as the Pathfinder tab.
Other military decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and Defense Meritorious Service Medals.
Bonner made a promise to the regiment's past and present members.
"The regiment's excellent reputation is well known," he said. "Together we will continue the fine tradition and prepare ourselves to accomplish any challenge our nation requires of us. I am immensely proud and honored to be your commandant."