On a slightly overcast day in the Pacific Northwest, in the presence of his Soldiers, members of I Corps, former division commanders and members of the Puget Sound communities, Maj. Gen. Thomas James Jr., stood in front of Task Force Bayonet as 7th Infantry Division commander for the last time Aug. 11.
James relinquished command of the 7th Inf. Div. and Task Force Bayonet to Maj. Gen. Willard Burleson.
"Serving in Task Force Bayonet with these incredible Soldiers has been the ultimate highlight of my career," James said. "I am humbled that the Army gave me the opportunity."
In the last two years, the division focused on strengthening Soldier, civilian and family fitness; building combat-ready battalions and squadrons; and developing leaders of the profession, James said.
He went on to talk about the division's accomplishments, which included a small extension of the headquarters deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan, to exercise mission command as Train Advise and Assist Command -- South mission in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, 16th Combat Aviation Brigade's current deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan, and elements of the 17th Field Artillery Brigade's deployment to Southwest Asia, to name a few.
"Two years ago, we started this journey with an idea that we would take a small (Training Readiness Authority) focused division headquarters with six left shoulder patches and form a task force focused on building a team of Army professionals that are combat ready to fight and win in a complex world," James said. "We created the Spirit of the Bayonet."
Lieutenant General Gary Volesky, I Corps commanding general, praised James for his time as commander of 7th Inf. Div. and Task Force Bayonet.
"His legacy will be defined by his character," Volesky said. "Subordinates want to follow him because he is an authentic leader. He makes people feel like they matter and that they are critical team members of Team Bayonet."
Volesky said "Team James" will always have a home at JBLM.
"Team Burleson, welcome home," Volesky said as he welcomed Burleson to the JBLM team. "We look forward to serving with you and seeing you build on the outstanding reputation of this command."
Burleson is no stranger to the Bayonet Division and JBLM. He served as a platoon leader in combat during Operation Just Cause in Panama with the 7th Inf. Div. and later served as the division's deputy commanding general for operations shortly after the division reactivated at JBLM in 2012.
Burleson spent 14 months in his most recent assignment as senior adviser to the Ministry of Defense, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and said he understood the dangers our deployed Soldiers face and how volatile the world remains.
Burleson said he was honored to be part of the team and promised to remain committed to the readiness of Task Force Bayonet.
The ceremony was bittersweet for the Soldiers of Task Force Bayonet in another regard. In addition to James departing the division, Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, the division's senior enlisted adviser for the past two years, also transitioned from the division.
Shortly following the ceremony, Love headed to the airport and was on a plane to Afghanistan to take a new position as senior enlisted adviser for the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan.
"Command Sergeant Major Jack Love, thank you for your passion for Soldiers, loyalty to the unit and humble confidence that inspired every Soldier in this great formation -- especially the commanding general," James said.