FORT LIBERTY, N.C. — Soldiers and family members across the XVIII Airborne Corps welcomed their new command sergeant major at the Eternal Flame on Fort Liberty, North Carolina, Aug. 11, 2023. Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan Barker took the reins of America’s Contingency Corps from Command Sgt. Maj. TJ Holland during the corps’ change of responsibility ceremony.
“CSM Holland, you and your team have built combat formations grounded by trust that have mastered the basics, taken care of Soldiers and their Families, and engaged in risk-taking,” shared Lt. Gen. Chris Donahue, the Commanding General of 18th Airborne Corps.
Holland, raised in Lancaster, Ohio, became the senior enlisted advisor of the Corps on June 6, 2020. He leaves a legacy with the unit of fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement across the Corps. During his tenure, he spearheaded the development and implementation of a leader engagement tool, which enhanced communication within leadership to identify and resolve issues within the Corps.
“The U.S. Noncommissioned Officer Corps has won the respect of our nation, the admiration of many countries, and has the reputation as the backbone of our Army,” Holland said. “I am blessed to have a commander that trusts and empowers his NCOs. That trust is earned everyday.”
As America’s Contingency Corps, the XVIII Airborne Corps is called upon as the immediate response force to deploy on moment’s notice anywhere in the world in defense of our national and strategic interests. During Holland’s time, he oversaw four- rapid, no-notice deployments in support of United States Central Command, United States European Command, and United States Africa Command. Most notably, XVIII Airborne Corps recently deployed to Europe with a positioning of additional U.S. forces in Germany and Poland to bolster the Eastern flank and to assure our NATO Allies and Partners. Under Holland’s tenure, the Corps also provided oversight and deployed its tenant organizations to serve as ground forces for the noncombatant evacuation operation out of Kabul, Afghanistan.
From the beginning of Holland’s time, Soldier welfare was a priority. Holland spearheaded a new Army pilot food program and implemented Holistic Health & Fitness that improved the rehabilitation, operational readiness levels, and lethality of the force. He also secured additional funding for the demolition of Smoke Bomb Hill barracks and worked with U.S. Army Installation Management Command to contract new facilities to address Soldier welfare concerns and replace the uninhabitable and hazardous substandard housing options.
Holland supported innovation efforts, such as Dragon’s Lair, a competition that afforded Soldiers the opportunity as end-users to develop and present innovative ideas to solve real problems across the U.S. Department of Defense. Since its inception, Dragon’s Lair has had eight iterations of the competition, most recently in Tampa, Florida, where the Corps co-hosted the event with U.S. Special Operations Command. The next iteration of Dragon’s Lair will be co-hosted with the nation’s largest global combatant command, the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.
He also oversaw the laying of the framework for an AI-enabled Corps through the creation of data-centric Army units. All the while, Holland structured unique industry training for people within the Corps, growing educational partnership agreements that gave Soldiers access to credentialing and STEM-focused education pathways.
Although Holland’s journey with the corps ends here, his impact on the Army will continue to expand as he soon takes the reins as the Command Sergeant Major of U.S. Army Forces Command.
During his remarks, Donahue shared that the Army had incredible confidence in Barker’s ability to lead the formation, praising Barker as relentless.
“It is with great pride that I join the ranks of those who have come before me,” Barker said. “The Corps Command Sergeants Major who have stood tall, ensured Soldiers were trained and proficient in their tasks and guided the Corps through the crucibles of war.”
Barker shared his humility, while honoring the legacy of the outfit, stating, “I am acutely aware that this responsibility is not mine alone, but a collective endeavor.”
Barker recently served as the Command Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (DEVCOM). DEVCOM’s mission is to leverage cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and synthetic biology to give Soldiers the ability to fight more effectively than their adversaries. His level of experience with innovation will be beneficial as Barker bolsters America’s Contingency Corps and prepares it for data-centric operations.
By using the change of responsibility ceremony, XVIII Airborne Corps embodies the uninterrupted tradition of leadership. This time-honored military tradition highlights the unbroken chain of senior enlisted leadership and unit responsibility. It serves as a visual reminder of unity, reinforcing the Corps’ resilience and shared sense of purpose. Embracing transition underlines a commitment to continuity and renewable energy within the formation.