ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – In the world of COVID-19, delays, restrictions and inconvenience are but a few words to describe everyday living across the globe. In the world of the U.S. Army, Soldiers are trained to overcome and push forward with solutions.
As Soldiers and staffs set eyes upon the 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command’s change of command, they had to quickly find an answer on how to execute on this time-honored tradition.
“Due to COVID 19, social distancing and other restrictions, our headquarters staff had to develop a plan on how to conduct this unprecedented change of command ceremony without physically coming together,” explained Anthony L. Taylor, 85th USARSC Public Affairs Office. “Because we planned to release this on social media, we wanted to keep this brief but at the same time ensure that enough time was allowed for proper honors and recognitions. Through collaborated support with Army Reserve public affairs staff and First Army Public Affairs Office, we developed a video package containing a pre-recorded virtual change of command ceremony that was released on social media channels on June 1st.”
Brig. Gen. Kris A. Belanger, outgoing commander, delivered her farewell remarks on the video from her home in South Carolina. Belanger took command of the “Custer Division” in August 2017.
“We came a long way since then. Three years ago, I asked you to join me in a journey to make things happen and boy did we ever. I felt your support every step of the way as we built readiness and relevance,” said Belanger. “Together, we right-sized the 85th Support Command and made history when we aligned to AR 670-1 with our unit patches. We established relevance as a one-star command by exercising inherent awards authority. We insured our Army Reserve battalions were receiving the best support possible by empowering our brigade support elements. We increased (observer coach/trainer) capability and we decreased the processing time of actions from 110 days average time to 33.”
Belanger added that the 85th USARSC went through a C2 re-alignment initiative “that changed our relationship with First Army from operational control to direct support,” she said.
“Today we are stronger, adaptable and more integrated than we have ever been before," said Belanger. "Let me remind you we did all of this together. I am in awe of your support.”
Maj. Gen. A.C. Roper, Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve Support Command who presided over the virtual ceremony, recognized both leaders on their accomplishments.
“Kris, I want to congratulate you and thank you for your effort, your leadership, hard work and dedicated service,” said Roper. “You have made a significant difference in the 85th and in First Army. You’ve done some heavy lifting and this command is highly regarded across the total force.”
Roper also interjected remarks to Brig. Gen. Ernest Litynski, the incoming commander, who was last assigned as the deputy commander for the 81st Readiness Division.
“During these times of great power competition, transformation and fiscal uncertainty, your Soldiers will look to you for leadership,” he said. “You have a great reputation for success and we know you will do a great job for this command.”
In the unique multi-component relationship that the 85th USARSC shares with First Army, Lt. Gen. Thomas James, Commanding General, First Army, also shared some remarks to the commanders, Soldiers and staff during the virtual ceremony.
“I speak for so many in ‘Task Force Deed’ when I tell you how much we are going to miss (Belanger) and how much we appreciate the incredible work leading ‘Task Force Custer. “First Army could not do what we do without the 85th. ‘Task Force Custer’ is central to our ability to partner with, train and enable the total force. Their top notch observer coach/trainers have the skills to partner with the reserve component leaders when it comes to training, equipping and unit manning. There is no job more sacred than successfully preparing units to deploy, fight, win and come home.”
Lytinski said that he looked forward to working with the Soldiers of “Task Force Deed” and “Task Force Custer” along with “teaching, coaching and mentoring the Soldiers in the greatest profession. The profession of arms.” He also expressed his joy in taking on his new role as “Custer 6”, the call sign for the 85th USARSC’s commander.
“To the outgoing commander, Brigadier General Belanger, thank you for what you have done here over the last three years,” said Litynski. “And finally to my family, my wife Jennifer and my three children I thank you for your unconditional support.”
Litynski, an Armor officer with 26 years of service, has held a variety of active and reserve component command and staff positions across the continental U.S. as well as deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Belanger, an Adjutant General officer with 29 years of service, has served in a variety of active and reserve component command and staff positions across the continental U.S. and an overseas deployment to Kuwait.
The 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command’s nine brigade support elements, along with its 45 battalions dispersed across 25 states, provide capable and ready Army Reserve observer coach/trainers. These OC/Ts possess the capabilities to partner with and train Army leaders in focused areas of leadership, training, equipping and unit manning in order to support First Army’s mission to successfully deploy units to win on the battlefield.
The 85th U.S. Army Reserve Support Command was constituted as the 85th Infantry Division on Aug. 5, 1917, and later activated at Camp Custer, Michigan, to deploy overseas in July 1918. The division later served in World War II and participated in the campaigns of Rome-Anno, Po Valley, and North Apennines. Four “Custermen” were awarded the Medal of Honor for their service in WWII: 1LT Orville Bloch, 338th Infantry Regiment; SGT Chris Carr, 337th Infantry Regiment; and posthumously: SSG George Keathley, 338th infantry Regiment and 1LT Robert Waugh, 339th Infantry Regiment.