A British general officer is wrapping up a history-making tenure with one of the U.S. Army’s most well-respected organizations.
Brig. Leigh R. Tingey has served for nearly two years as the deputy commanding general for maneuver for the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss in West Texas.
He recently returned from a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan where he served as commander of a task force consisting of about 1,500 U.S. service members, Department of Defense civilian employees and contractors in the Southeastern part of the country.
“It was an honor,” said Tingey, a 50-year-old native of Cambridge. “I can literally think of only two or three other British officers who have previously had the privilege of commanding U.S. soldiers on operations.”
Tingey, in his role as commander of Task Force-Southeast, conducted a train, advise and assist mission.
“The primary mission was working alongside our Afghan partners – the Afghan army and Afghan national police – and helping them improve the way they organize themselves, train and conduct operations,” Tingey said.
In particular, Tingey’s task force worked closely with Afghanistan’s 203rd Thunder Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. Khanullah Shuja.
“I actually commanded U.S. troops,” Tingey said. “I had just one other British officer with me, and that was my legal adviser. I had to have a U.S. legal adviser and a British legal adviser, because of the slight differences we have on how we target and engage the enemy.”
“It was a phenomenal nine months,” Tingey added. “We were extremely busy, and despite the challenges, made significant progress in Southeastern Afghanistan.”
Tingey deployed with elements from the 1st Armored Division headquarters, and they began returning in a staggered fashion this spring.
He returned to Fort Bliss in April and promptly had to go into a 14-day quarantine as a precaution against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“As a precaution, every soldier coming back was quarantined for 14 days to make sure we didn’t bring anything back to the local community here (in West Texas),” Tingey said.
“That was very well-organized,” he continued. “We were well fed and well housed in air-conditioned tents. We were able to do training each day and go on runs on a half-mile track. It was as good as it could be.”
“But I won’t lie to you,” Tingey said. “It was frustrating. I spent nine months away and I was literally about 15 miles from home. But it was a precaution that was necessary.”
Tingey has served with the 1st Armored Division, America’s Tank Division, since August 2018, as part of its command team.
He is the second British general officer to serve in this role as part of a far-reaching exchange program. About 2,500 British service members and their families serve in the United States in 28 states, Tingey said.
About 20,000 U.S. service members and family members are stationed in the United Kingdom.
“As a partnership, we are like critical friends,” Tingey said. “Sometimes our views are different, and we can disagree openly with each other, but broadly speaking what we are trying to achieve is very similar. We might want to do it in slightly different ways, but what we ultimately want is a free democratic society that respects human rights and the rule of law. We want the same end-state.”
Before going to Afghanistan as part of the 1st Armored Divison’s headquarters team, Tingey helped get the organization ready for its mission. This train-up included going through a division-level Warfighter exercise here at Fort Bliss.
After a brief vacation after his deployment and subsequent quarantine, Tingey is now back at work at Fort Bliss, helping the 1st Armored Division with readiness and modernization. In particular, he is helping brigades and other units get ready for future deployments around the world.
Tingey is scheduled to leave Fort Bliss in late July and return to the United Kingdom where he will work closely with the commander of the Field Army, Lt. Gen. Ivan Jones.
Upon his return, he will work in a role that capitalizes on his experiences with the U.S. Army and the 1st Armored Division and help the British Army with readiness and modernization.
“(Lt. Gen. Jones) has created a job for me, based on what I’ve done here – the very unique experience of a Warfighter exercise, training armored brigade combat teams and commanding a U.S. task force in Afghanistan for nine months. That is unique,” Tingey said. “No one in the British Army has done anything like that.”
At Fort Bliss, Tingey will be succeeded by British Brig. Andrew Cox, who will be the third British general to serve with the command team of the 1st Armored Division.
For Tingey and his family, the past two years have been a remarkable experience.
His wife, Kerry, and their Chocolate Labrador, Henry, joined him in the United States. Their three children – Ben, 19; Olivia, 17; and Will, 15 – stayed in the United Kingdom and continued their schooling, but visited as often as they could on school holidays.
The family traveled extensively throughout the United States and made lots of friends both in the military and civilian worlds, Tingey said.
“It has been a most incredible two years, both being here at Fort Bliss and getting to work with the people of the (1st Armored) Division,” he said. “We have gotten to know the local area, the local people and the local culture. We have loved it.”
“We will miss a lot of what we have done here, and commanding a U.S. task force in Afghanistan was a truly massive honor and privilege,” Tingey said.