FORT STEWART, Ga.—A French general officer is making history with 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Georgia, as the first from his army to serve as the deputy commanding general for U.S. Soldiers.
Brig. Gen. Hubert Cottereau began serving with 3rd ID in July of 2019. After one year in the position of deputy commanding general-maneuver, he now serves as the deputy commanding general-future where he is in charge of long-range planning. In this position he oversees more than 21,000 Soldiers in the most honored division in the Unites States Army.
Cottereau’s role as DCG is part of the U.S. Army's Military Personnel Exchange Program (MPEP). The program is designed to strengthen bonds of friendship, understanding, and interoperability between the countries and their respective military organizations.
These partnerships allow foreign officers to serve in the U.S. and to experience the U.S. Army’s customs and courtesies, missions, and daily operations. While the 3ID has benefited from Cottereau’s expertise, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Todd Wasmund currently serves as the deputy commander for the French Army’s 3rd Armored Division in Marseilles.
"Having Brig. Gen. Cottereau here cements the relationship, furthers the partnership, and expands our knowledge exchange in how we both run an Army and fight. There has been a huge amount of lessons learned already,' said Maj. Gen Antonio Aguto, Commanding General of the 3rd Infantry Division.
"He has done more to help us in the COVID-19 pandemic than I ever anticipated. He was the brain behind the assessments, analysis, and coming up with courses of action for how we see and protect ourselves. He knows it like the back of his hand,' Aguto said.
"As our true DCG, he also oversees all of our future operations and plans for this division- modernization, our training areas- he's in charge of putting all that together. It has been a huge benefit to have a general officer as smart as him as our deputy commanding general."
Cottereau said the opportunity to work beside U.S. Soldiers is the chance of a lifetime.
A word came to Cottereau’s mind when asked what it’s like to lead U.S. Soldiers: honor.
“Honor because it’s a huge sign of confidence,” said Cottereau of the chance to lead here. “That expectation of me has to be met. Honor because this is a really lethal division with a great esprit de corps. Honor because I have the utmost respect for the people I’ve crossed and worked with. They are very talented, dedicated, and professional. They have a very positive mindset…very humble and accessible as well.”
Cottereau plays a key role in a number of division initiatives, but perhaps none as important as the role he has played in the division’s response to COVID-19.
Cottereau said his first step was to help operationalize the fight against the virus across the division and Fort Stewart. This meant working closely with commanders, the garrison’s team and medical professionals to standardize response measures and ensure Soldiers and families had access to the necessary precautions and care they needed.
“It was a holistic approach,” Cottereau said. “It was not only to treat the physical problem itself, it was the readiness of the division, the moral, it was the family, and it was the communications piece.”
“We have a tremendous, holistic team,” Cottereau said of those involved in the virus response. “A methodological, very detailed approach, very reactive and when hard decisions needed to be made, they were made. The division has done very, very well. It’s very impressive.”
With the pandemic response ongoing, Cottereau continues to help spearhead the division’s response and prepare for the division’s future training and modernization initiatives.
Cottereau said that foreign officers serving in America run the risk of living a parallel life from their American counterparts without truly integrating into the local community.
“With COVID came the moment where we were the same as every other family living on the base in terms of safety,” Cottereau said. “I think this pandemic made me significantly closer to the U.S. than I would have thought. We were not only fighting for ourselves, we were fighting for our families.”
Cottereau said the division’s response to COVID-19 was unlike any operation he has ever taken part in. Serving as a coordinator between the division, the tenant units, the garrison and civilian authorities, as well as medical professionals at Winn Army Community Hospital, his role in ensuring the readiness of the division, the safety of Soldiers and their families was one he took extremely seriously.
Cottereau brings a new perspective based on his experience, acquired within the French armed forces. This assignment continues a long history of challenging military assignments, including a recent yearlong deployment in Mali.
"Brig. Gen. Cottereau was selected to open this partnership between our two countries for his high potential, his vast professional and operational experience as well as his people skills,” said Brig. Gen. Benoit Chavanat, the general officer in charge of international relations. “These abilities, along with the excellent welcome extended to him, have enabled Brig. Gen. Cottereau to rapidly fit into the 3rd ID and efficiently and fully assume his duty."
When the Chief of Staff of the French army selected him for this position, he told him, “Hubert, I think that is the job of the year.”
“I think he was right,” Cottereau said. “It’s a significant adventure.”
France is one of the United States’ oldest allies. The selection of the 3rd ID for this special partnership is fitting, as the division is nicknamed the “Rock of the Marne” due to its commitment in France in 1917.
“The exchange of general officers holding high-responsibility positions bears testimony of the mutual trust and solid partnership existing between our two armies,” said Chief of Staff of the French Army Gen. Thierry Burkhard. “That exchange is directly part of the enhancing of operational interoperability between the U.S. and the French armies. The objective is to consolidate our common training to be ever better prepared for a high intensity commitment.”
While serving in this role is a first for a French general, it is not Cottereau’s first time working in the U.S. Seven years ago, he served with NATO in Norfolk, Virginia. His wife, Brigitte, and his five children have loved their opportunities to live in the U.S.
“You don’t send anybody to this kind of adventure without asking ‘Are you willing? Is your family okay with that?’”
“My whole family was excited about coming back to the USA,” Cottereau said. He said his children asked him every week when they could return to the U.S.
Cottereau looks forward to what the future holds for him in his position as the DCG and is sure the assignment will continue to help him grow as a leader.
“It’s challenging for me and humbling,” Cottereau said. “It’s probably one of the most interesting and learning assignments I’ve ever had in my 33-year career in the army.”