FORT STEWART, Ga. - With the deployment of Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, 3rd Infantry Division commanding general, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey E. Phillips has become senior commander of Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield and 3rd ID deputy commanding general - rear.
In the division's previous deployment, a colonel served as senior commander and a lieutenant colonel served as rear detachment commander, but in the recent months the Army decided to provide a general officer as senior commander in the absence of the commanding general, to serve as the court martial convening authority and be available to make the type of senior-level decisions that inevitably become necessary at an installation of this size and complexity, said Brig. Gen. Phillips.
"Major General Cucolo had the opportunity to bring in a brigadier general and I was asked," said Brig. Gen. Phillips, an Army Reserve officer. "I was honored when Maj. Gen. Cucolo asked me to come down. It didn't take me long to say 'yes.'"
Brigadier General Phillips and Maj. Gen. Cucolo previously worked together at the Pentagon, where Maj. Gen. Cucolo served as the Army's Chief of Public Affairs, and Brig. Gen. Phillips was his deputy.
Brigadier General Phillips has been asked why the position didn't go to an active duty general.
"Over the past several years, the Army Reserve has become so well integrated into the total Army that it really doesn't make any difference if you are an active duty or Reserve general. We are all ready and able to lead," he said. "Everywhere you look, Reserve component Soldiers serve alongside active component Soldiers. It wasn't a question to send an active duty general or a Reserve general - the Army needed a general."
During his one-year stint at Fort Stewart, Brig. Gen. Phillips said his primary focus will be on ensuring that the Families are taken care of.
"I really want to ensure that our Families are cared for," he said. "Taking care of Families is so important to the readiness of our force; it is central to ensuring that our Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan can focus on their jobs."
A native of Connecticut, Brig. Gen. Phillips is finding southeast Georgia and Fort Stewart a friendly place.
"I'm really enjoying it here," he said. "Never having been to this part of the country before, I wasn't sure what to expect; what I have found is exceptionally gracious and welcoming people, and a historic unit at the peak of readiness."
He also said he is looking forward to his first low country boil.
Brigadier General Phillips is living on Fort Stewart so that he is readily available to the Stewart-Hunter community.
"I want to be aware of and involved with everything on post and in the local community," he said. "I want to sustain what is going right, and address what we might improve on."
Brigadier General Phillips said that he plans to continue the same policies established by Maj. Gen. Cucolo so that there is a seamless transition with stability and little interruption in the leadership provided to the Soldiers of Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield.
The new senior commander has had an eclectic military career, by his own admission. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in journalism, where he received his Regular Army commission through ROTC. He was on active duty for the first 13 years of his career, where he served primarily as an armor officer in Germany, at Fort Hood, and at Fort Knox, as well as a tour as a United Nations Peacekeeper in Israel and Egypt. Since he went into the Reserves in 1992, Brig. Gen. Phillips has served on active duty in Bosnia and Iraq and at his last stint as Deputy Chief of Public Affairs at the Pentagon.
As a civilian, Brig. Gen. Phillips has worked in business, largely in publishing, marketing and public relations. He has helped manage political campaigns and was an appointee in the Bush administration. He also directed public affairs and was White House Liaison for the Department of Veterans Affairs, and he served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a committee communications director and sub-committee staff director.
"I've made a career by not having a traditional career," Brig. Gen. Phillips said with a laugh. "My years of active duty taught me about the Army, the fundamentals of leadership and management, which don't change regardless of one's rank. My experience in business furthered those lessons, honing my ability to take care of customers, which Families, Soldiers and the American people are to those of us in leadership positions in the Army. In politics, I learned how to define a value message and get that message across, and as a government official in the executive and legislative branches I saw for myself the dedication of elected officials, their staffs and our civil servants."
While his background may be a bit different, Brig. Gen. Phillips said he is ready, willing and able to take on his new responsibilities.
"I want to do this, I want to serve our Army in this capacity; it was a real honor to be invited by Maj. Gen. Cucolo," he said. "I will absolutely do the best I can for the Soldiers, their Families, our Army Civilians and the community. Rock of the Marne!"