Maj. Gen. Mark O'Neil assumed command of U.S. Army Alaska from Maj. Gen. Bryan R. Owens in a change of command ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's Pershing Field July 12.
Owens retired in a ceremony at the Fireside room, following the change of command ceremony, after 34 years in the Army, during which he commanded Airborne Infantry units at the company, battalion and brigade levels.During his career, Owens also served as the first brigadier general commandant of the United States Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, prior to which it had been considered a major general position.In his remarks, the reviewing officer, Gen. Robert Brown, the United States Army Pacific Commander, said of the longevity of the Army in Alaska, "As we execute the change of command in this strategically positioned command at the Northern end of the Pacific region, it's amazing when I look back and the Army has been here since 1867."Brown said Alaska provides an excellent platform for the Army to meet the needs of the nation, including strategic placement and arctic and mountainous conditions in which to train."This small but mighty Alaska team has done amazing things," said Brown, "Building a focused environment for mission readiness is not easy, but that's what this team worked on, and they did it with incredibly diverse, complex training."Brown mentioned some of USARAK's contributions to the Army's overall warfighting and training readiness, including Arctic Anvil 2016, the largest Army exercise to take place in Alaska since 2001.Owens' eldest daughter could not attend the ceremony, however, Jen Owens, the former USARAK commander's wife, made sure her daughter could observe the ceremony via a streaming app on her smart phone.During his remarks, Owens credited his staff and the command teams of his subordinate units with many of the accomplishments during his tenure as USARAK commander, including standing up an Apache squadron and a Gray Eagle squadron, deployments of USARAK units to Iraq and Afghanistan, multiple trips to the Joint Readiness Training Center and multiple exercises within Alaska.O'Neil takes command after having served as the Chief of Staff of USARPAC.