FORT BLISS, Texas - The 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss transitioned leadership during a change of command ceremony July 14 held on the Iron Soldier parade field here.
Maj. Gen. Sean C. Bernabe relinquished his duties as the commanding general of 1st AD and senior mission commander of Fort Bliss to Brig. Gen. James P. Isenhower III.
Lt. Gen. Robert “Pat” White, commanding general, III Armored Corps and Fort Hood, served as host for the ceremony. Several members of the division, Fort Bliss, and the El Paso community joined him to farewell Bernabe and welcome Isenhower. Special guests included Jeffrey Downey, special agent in charge of the El Paso Field Office, FBI, Gus Rodriguez, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army for Southwest Texas, and Oscar Leeser, mayor of El Paso.
“Absolutely everything during Sean’s tenure as a commander, everything that was accomplished by this great team, was accomplished in an environment unlike any other our Army has ever experienced,” White said, referencing the COVID-19 pandemic during his remarks.
Bernabe, a United States Military Academy graduate, assumed duties as the commander of 1st AD and the senior commander of Fort Bliss in September 2020. During his tenure, he led through the COVID-19 pandemic, the southern border mission, Operation Allies Welcome, and established Operation Ironclad, a Soldier first initiative, all while the division continued to deploy units in support of worldwide operations in defense of our Nation.
“Your leadership inspired positive change across El Paso, Fort Bliss, 1st Armored Division, and even the III Armored Corps. So, I commend you and your team for taking care of Soldiers and ensuring they are trained and ready, our job, for any challenge,” White said.
“We all thank Maj. Gen. Sean Bernabe for leading America’s sons and daughters through all these challenging times I just mentioned and probably more… making 1st Armored Division the best division in our Army,” White continued. “Thank you for leading the organization, creating a positive command climate, making positive changes while ensuring the division was and remains ready and lethal.”
Before getting into his remarks, Bernabe thanked White for his guidance and mentorship. He then recognized and thanked Downey, Rodriguez, and Leeser for their partnership and support for the Soldiers, civilians and families of Fort Bliss.
“It’s two messages today. The first message is simple; and it’s thank you,” Bernabe said.
Bernabe thanked many people for their dedication and support during his 21 months of command, including his wife Jayne, his command team, division staff, front office, installation partners and leaders.
“The second message and the last message, as I reflected back on my time as Iron Six, that reflection brought me to say, ‘You know, I am immensely proud of the things we have accomplished together,’” Bernabe said.
“I am proud of the way we tackled harmful behaviors in a deliberate and methodical prevention-based approach,” he continued, touching on Operation Ironclad.
“I am proud of how this division fought during Warfighter 21-04. The World Class [Opposing Forces] underestimated the speed, the agility, the aggressiveness, and the destructive power of America’s Tank Division. Iron Soldiers know how to fight. Iron Soldiers win, period,” he said.
Bernabe went on to detail his pride in the way Team Bliss came together to turn Dona Ana Base Camp into Dona Ana Village to care for 11,500 Afghan guests and that they were recognized by the Secretary of the Army for being “the best of America.”
“Iron Soldiers are empathetic and caring teammates who provide solutions for the nation,” he stated.
He also highlighted the division’s reestablishment of a culture of maintenance excellence, the division headquarters for setting conditions for brigade success regardless of the mission, the installation for managing the pandemic, and the efforts of the medical community to increase the level of care for families and Soldiers at Fort Bliss.
“I am proud of so many things this 'team of teams' has accomplished over the last 21 months. I am proud to call myself an Iron Soldier,” Bernabe finished.
Bernabe is moving on to serve as the commander of III Armored Corps.
As he transitioned to the incoming commander, White emphasized the trust and confidence he has in Isenhower’s abilities to lead the 1st AD into the future.
“[The Army] often gets things exceptionally right, and in this case, selecting Brig. Gen. Jim Isenhower as the commander of the 1st Armored Division goes beyond exceptionally right,” he said.
“He leads with generalship, which means something completely different than just leading. Jim, I’m proud to have you on the team. It’s an honor to be able to serve with you. I’ve got trust and confidence in you. I’m excited that you’re here. I look forward to watching this division, America’s Tank Division, the best division in our Army, just keep climbing under your leadership,” he stated.
Isenhower, also a USMA graduate, most recently served as the 1st Multi-Domain Task Force commander at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. The first unit of its kind, the task force is an Army modernization effort. Isenhower and his team spearheaded the operationalization of the MDTF and the development of doctrine for this joint enabler.
Isenhower kept his remarks brief, thanking those in attendance and those who have supported him throughout his career. He then emphasized the privilege it is to assume command of America’s Tank Division.
From Tebessa to Medina Ridge, from Tuzla to Tikrit, the 1st Armored Division has long instilled doubt in our adversaries and inspired trust and confidence in our allies,” Isenhower said. “Cheryl and I are honored and privileged to stand with you and to help write the next chapter in the prideful history of America’s Tank Division. God bless this division and installation, these incredibly supportive communities, our Nation, and our Army. Iron Soldiers.”