"I speak on behalf of a grateful nation when I offer my congratulations on a job well done," said Lt. Gen. Michael X. Garrett, commanding general of U.S. Army Central, addressing Thoms and his Soldiers. "You have raised the bar and continued the development of a communications network in this theater that is absolutely the toughest area in the world in which to operate." The command has about 5,000 Soldiers who support unified land operations overseas for the United States military. "Ready Lightning" Soldiers have had a lasting presence in both Qatar and at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait since 2001. In 2016, the command also became the U.S. Army Reserve proponent for Defensive Cyber Operations and Forces -- integrating Army Reserve Cyber Protection Teams into its ranks. The unit covers operations in five time zones, an area larger than one and a half times the continental United States. "The physical terrain is made even more challenging by the human terrain -- a growing population that numbers more than 540 million people, with 49 separate ethnic groups, speaking 60 languages and practicing 27 different religions," Garrett said. Garrett told the Soldiers their joint force mission could not have higher stakes. "The Ready Lightning Soldiers of the 335th Signal Command play an absolutely indispensable role, providing the communications backbone through which we conduct mission command, issue guidance and orders, communicate our intent and coordinate our operations and activities," he said. During the past year, the command stood up nine communications sites -- all at an unprecedented pace. "You built it, made it work and kept it secure," Thoms, the outgoing commander, told the formation. Thoms said the day marked the conclusion of the sixth time he had served in Kuwait. "My first trip to this country was a quarter-century ago with the 1st Armored Division as we worked together with our coalition partners to liberate Kuwait," he said. "Today we continue to work with coalition partners in many locations in the theater to ensure security and stability for our allied partners." Thoms said in many of those locations the 335th Signal Command Soldiers are deployed, providing critical information networks to leaders engaged in three named operations. "Soldiers of the 335th, your achievements in support of those missions during the past year and previous years has been amazing," he said.NEW COMMANDER Taking command of the 335th Signal Command (Theater) (Provisional) is Brig. Gen. Steven Hager, who has previously served as the deputy for the command element stateside. Hager, a Los Gatos, Calif. resident, was previously in support of USARCENT (T) (P) in 2014, when he served as the chief of staff of the 335th Signal Command in Kuwait. Hager said he anticipates a number of challenging technology upgrades, including network modernization, security stacks, Windows 10 operating system migration and wireless Secret computer networks. But, despite naturally gravitating toward those changes as a Silicon Valley computer expert, the incoming general said he looks forward to the human interactions with his new Soldiers. "What matters most to me, as your commander and as a person, is you," Hager told his new Soldiers. "You are the most valuable resource this army has. So, my commitment to you is to be your biggest cheerleader, you biggest motivator and -- at times -- your biggest critic, because I want you to constantly improve." Hager also commended Brig. Gen. Thoms for his "great job leading the team." "Upon returning to Kuwait, I know realized the bar has been raised," Hager said. "I intend to continue that progress."