About 50 miles and 28 years from the spot where Col. James Brady left home in Las Cruces, N.M., for the U.S. Military Academy and hoped to someday serve in the Borderland, the career Infantry officer took command of U.S. Army Garrison Fort Bliss, Texas, in a change of command ceremony on post, July 8, 2021.
Brady and his family followed Col. Stu James and his family after two years in charge of the garrison, in a ceremony presided over by Brenda Lee McCullough, director of the Installation Management Command’s Readiness Directorate, which manages Army garrisons worldwide.
Fort Bliss is a Strategic Deployment Platform that executes deployment operations enabling rapid and efficient unit deployment and re-deployment. Simultaneously, the garrison provides facilities and services that assist units in sustaining readiness and promotes a safe and secure installation that allows for troops, civilians, and their families to thrive. With 1.12 million acres, Fort Bliss is the second largest installation within the Department of Defense.
During James’ time in command, he led the 3,000-person civilian-military workforce through the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, an Army-wide housing crisis, and the short-notice support of the Department of Health and Human Services mission to shelter unaccompanied migrant children. During that time, among other improvements, his leadership helped strengthen the Mobilization Force Generation Installation enterprise at Bliss, and re-imagined the Residential Communities Initiative agreement to enhance public-private military housing management at Bliss.
In his remarks, Maj. Gen. Sean Bernabe, the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss commanding general, said James had been a valued teammate because of his prior experience with the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, and also because of his creativity and his will to lead.
“We’re saying goodbye to someone who has been a fixture at Fort Bliss for so many years,” Bernabe said of James, who as a battalion commander in 2015, stood up the 1st AD’s 1st Battalion, 67th Armored Regiment at Bliss after they had been deactivated at Fort Carson, Colo., in 2015. “That’s been an advantage to us that he knows so much about this installation and this community. I don’t think I had a question in the time that we’ve worked together that he didn’t have an answer for.
“He always has a creative way of solving problems and improving the posture of this installation–[for] now and in the future,” Bernabe said. “Stu’s a natural leader and we saw that when he guided this community through a crazy time, a year of a pandemic and all of the other things that went with that.”
After passing the torch to Brady, a reflective James said in his remarks that the opportunity to serve as garrison commander was “humbling.”
“It truly takes a team to execute [the garrison] mission every day,” said James. “My goal was to solve as many problems as I could on my level to enable [Bliss commanding generals] to focus on their missions.
“Shortly after taking command, I gathered all of the directors together and said ‘listen, we have to be ready for a contested homeland environment,'” James said. “I just didn’t anticipate it happening during my command with a pandemic. But, my team came through. They never stopped solving problems. They never gave up.”
Brady takes the helm of the garrison following his family’s time at Fort Bragg, N.C., as the XVIII Airborne Corps director of operations. Among his many positions throughout his career, the Bronze Star Medal recipient has also served as a physics instructor at West Point.
Bernabe, who said he admittedly doesn’t know “Jim,” said he likes what he has seen and heard so far and looks forward to “learning” with him.
“Here’s what people say about Jim Brady,” Bernabe said. “He’s a hard worker, so we’re going from one hard worker to another, and that’s good as there is much to be done. Folks also tell me he’s a fast learner, and there’s a lot to learn here–I'm still learning Jim. You have such a great team here with this garrison to help you pick up on things as quickly as you possibly can.”
Throughout his career, Brady, whose wife Cairy is also from Las Cruces, said Southern New Mexico and West Texas were never far from his thoughts.
“After I left for West Point in 1993, I yearned to come back,” Brady said. “I even had pictures of the mountains around here just to remind me of the land. I know many things have changed over the years, however the great qualities of this region remain the same. I plan to sustain, support and defend ‘America’s Tank Division’ and the vast array of commands and tenant units that are assigned to Fort Bliss. I really can’t wait to work with this great team.”