FORT BENNING, Ga. - The Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning welcomed a new leader Thursday - and bid farewell to the MCoE's inaugural commander.

Maj. Gen. Robert Brown succeeded Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter during a change of command ceremony on Soldiers Field beside the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park.

The reviewing officer was Lt. Gen. John Sterling, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command's deputy commanding general and chief of staff.

Brown arrives after serving as chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe in Heidelberg, Germany. The Army hasn't announced Ferriter's next assignment.

"Bob Brown and his wife, Patti, bring enormous talent, experience and leadership to Fort Benning," Sterling told the audience. "We've put a lot of big rocks in (his) rucksack, but know that Mike Ferriter has cleared the trail, which should ease the endeavor. ... These are significant times for the Maneuver Center of Excellence and this community."

The MCoE, activated in October 2009, is the hub for the Army's new Infantry-Armor alliance. Fort Benning offers 92 Infantry courses, and when the Armor School's move from Fort Knox, Ky., is wrapped up next year, that number will grow to 134 overall.

Under the reorganization, every Infantry and Armor second lieutenant, captain and NCO will train at Fort Benning - along with 52 percent of all civilians coming into the Army. About 144,000 Soldiers are expected to be trained here annually.

"What an honor and privilege to have this opportunity," said Brown, who hasn't been stationed here since he was a lieutenant. "We feel so fortunate to be in this great community. The community support Fort Benning gets is known throughout the Army. ... We've had about 23 moves in 30 years, and we've never been greeted so warmly. We're just thrilled to be here as part of this great team."

Brown was commissioned an Infantry second lieutenant in 1981 upon graduation from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he was recruited to play basketball by then-head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Last year, he served as deputy commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division in Mosul, Iraq. Brown supported Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti earlier in his career.

Along the way, he's been commander of D Company, 1st Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division, at Fort Carson, Colo.; 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized), 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, and Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia-Herzegovina; and 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, at Fort Lewis, Wash., and in Iraq.

Brown said the Armor School's transfer remains a top priority and he'll continue providing the best training possible to Soldiers passing through Fort Benning's gates.

"We build the nation's might," he said. "Transformation is so important, but the most important thing is preparing Soldiers for the future. We're a nation at war. We'll look at the future and constantly ask ourselves - how are we going to fight, how are we going to train' Here at Fort Benning, we're right on the cutting edge."

Ferriter, meanwhile, became Fort Benning's commander in June 2009. He was responsible for managing the historic Infantry-Armor consolidation and building the Maneuver Center.

"(He's) had far more to deal with than just a regular training center and he has managed it all superbly," Sterling said. "Change is always challenging - and big changes are even bigger challenges. This has been huge.

"To navigate through it successfully requires a sure-handed captain. Fortunately, we've had Mike Ferriter here to provide that leadership."

Under Ferriter's watch, the MCoE engineered new instruction and training concepts, incorporating the latest technology, and introduced changes to mounted and dismounted movement and maneuver for the future. The general also oversaw modernization of the Army combatives program.

"The credit for all we accomplished goes to the great team you see on the field and those represented in the stands," Ferriter said. "These men and women out here really are the best role models you'll ever see."

He said activating the MCoE and linking Infantry and Armor together is "simply the right thing to do."

"Our leaders from Fort Benning and Fort Knox have worked long hours to make it possible," he said.

This marked Ferriter's fourth stint at Fort Benning. In previous stops, he commanded 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the 11th Infantry Regiment. His wife, Margie, was born in Columbus and their children attended school here.

He praised his replacement, calling Brown the "perfect choice" to lead Fort Benning into this new era.

"You can tell how much this place touches you ... with all the great leaders and former commanders who have returned today," Ferriter said. "It's been a pleasure to call Fort Benning home, (and) I'm thrilled to give command over to such a warrior, good friend and family."