ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- First Army Soldiers, civilians, and family members said goodbye to the man who led them the last two years during a relinquishment of command ceremony here Aug. 9.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Twitty, whose grandfathers served in First Army in a segregated military, is leaving to serve as deputy commander of U.S. European Command.

On why it was a relinquishment of command instead of a change, Forces Command Commanding General, Gen. Robert Abrams explained, "We know who his replacement is, but it's got to go through a nomination process."

In a ceremony prior to the relinquishment, Abrams presented Twitty with the Distinguished Service Medal. After the pinning, Abrams told attendees, "We could not have picked a more technically and tactically competent warfighter to go lead this formation and help train the National Guard and Army Reserve through an unbelievable tempo these last two years."

Abrams added that Twitty's integrity and commitment to the mission are unmatched.

"He's one of our Army's finest. He's a leader of strong character. He does exactly what's right and what's best for the Army every time," Abrams said. "He's a Soldier's Soldier and I've been lucky to be able to serve with him. He's been an inspiration to many of you. No one has helped raise the readiness level of our total force more than he has."

In his remarks, Twitty said great training and familial ties made his time with First Army memorable.

"This has been a great assignment for me. I'm a trainer at heart and it's all about standards and getting after it," he said. "I've had an opportunity for the past two years to do something that I really love. The main reason First Army is special to me is because I love training, I love being with Soldiers, I love putting boots in the mud and ensure standards are being enforced. I've had some great division and brigade command teams to work with and Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Johnson has lived the first line in the NCO creed, 'No one is more professional than I.'"

Twitty then paid tribute to the service of his ancestors.

"My grandfathers served in First Army in World War II when the military was segregated. This was coming full circle to come back here and take over First Army," he said. "Every day that I've worn this uniform I've thought about my grandfathers and how they served in this great unit. That has been an inspiration for me."

Twitty also noted that a major milestone for the unit was in the offing: "I want to say, 'Happy Birthday, First Army!' 100 years old tomorrow."