FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Hundreds gathered at division parade field March 5 to welcome Maj. Gen. JP McGee as he took command of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell from Maj. Gen. Brian E. Winski.
Despite COVID-19 safety precautions limiting capacity community members showed their support to the incoming and outgoing commanding generals.
“It is the honor of my lifetime to serve as your commanding general,” McGee said to Soldiers and Families in attendance. “There is nowhere in the world I would rather be than with this team right now. I know your expectations of me, and I will do my best to exceed them.”
McGee was commissioned in 1990 as an infantry lieutenant after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point.
Throughout his military career, he has served in leadership positions at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Lewis, Washington; Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Belvoir, Virginia; and the Pentagon.
He also deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“This is my third tour of Fort Campbell, and it’s become a second home to me and my Family,” McGee said. “My daughter Emma was born in Blanchfield Hospital, my children have been educated in the schools here and we have many wonderful memories of our time here – we look forward to creating many more.”
While at Fort Campbell December 2006-February 2009, McGee commanded 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
“In 2007, he took the 101st’s No Slack Battalion to Samarra for 15 months, pacifying one of the most violent places in Iraq and significantly improving the lives of the Iraqi people there,” said Lt. Gen. Michael E. Kurilla, commanding general, XVIII Airborne Corps.
McGee returned to Fort Campbell as 1st BCT’s brigade commander July 2011-October 2013. Under his leadership, Bastogne served as one of the first advise and assist brigades in Afghanistan, where they facilitated the transition of security forces in Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan provinces.
Most recently, McGee served as director of the Army Talent Management Task Force in Washington, which works to retain the Army’s most talented officers as they progress in their careers.
“All of these opportunities stretched him as a leader, and there is no question now that he is the right leader to lead the 101st to the end of COVID and to whatever global security structure forms after,” Kurilla said.
McGee takes command at an unusual point in division history. For the first time in 20 years, Fort Campbell’s Soldiers are not scheduled to deploy overseas, but they continue battling COVID-19 at home.
“The 101st Airborne Division is made to excel in times of danger and uncertainty, and that’s exactly what we will do,” McGee said. “We’ll make the most of this brief interlude to focus on simultaneously making people our No. 1 priority and building readiness. We know our future is war, and we must do all we can to make sure we are prepared to win in our next rendezvous with destiny.”
Enduring priorities for McGee include ensuring the division is trained, disciplined, fit, cohesive and ready for any mission. He also will take on the role as a leader in the fight against COVID-19.
“Coronavirus hit like a hammer, but it was not a knockout blow,” Kurilla said. “This was a moment for decisive, engaged, empathetic leadership.”
Winski, who became the division’s commanding general in February 2019, responded to the pandemic with a series of town halls, community updates and comprehensive risk assessments to combat the virus. At the same time, he accelerated Fort Campbell’s leading position in the Army’s move toward large-scale combat operations.
“The focus here was on the tremendous balance between safety and readiness,” Kurilla said. “[Winski] stood up on the rapidly diminishing margins of keeping our Families and troops free from COVID and maintaining the kind of combat capability we need if called.”
For Winski, leading the 101st Airborne Division capped off a distinguished career of military service spanning 32 years.
“It’s been my absolute life’s honor to serve in the 101st, and to finish my Army career here as Eagle 6,” Winski said. “I’m incredibly proud of the history of this division … and it’s easy, because the 101st history book is one where the chapters are filled with proud stories of honor, courage, determination and valor.”
Winski commissioned for the Army through ROTC and entered active duty as an infantry officer in 1989. He served in the 101st Abn. Div. for more than 15 years and deployed on multiple combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Other assignments during Winski’s career included service at Fort Bragg, Fort Stewart, Georgia; Fort Hood, the Joint Readiness Training Center-Fort Polk, Louisiana, and the Army Legislative Liaison Office. Most recently, he served as chief legislative liaison for the U.S. Department of the Army.
However, Fort Campbell remained the closest to Winski’s heart. He holds the distinction of being the Eagle 6 who served the longest tenure as a Screaming Eagle.
“One of our greatest life’s blessings has been being part of this community for so many years,” he said. “Our kids spent their childhood and adolescence here, they got their first communion here, they grew up here. We’ve lived here for about 15 years, and we’ve made countless lifelong friends here.”
Winski said he is confident in McGee’s ability to lead the division to greater heights, and the new commanding general is ready to start the process.
“I know that the troopers of the 101st Airborne Division will soon forget my comments today,” McGee said. “You will rightly judge me by my actions in the months ahead. I look forward to serving alongside you and adding to the rich heritage of this most famous of all divisions.”