By Lisa R. RhodesMarch 11, 2011
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - Maj. Gen. Kevin R. Wendel pledged to fulfill the mission of First Army Division East as he assumed command of the multicomponent division in a change of command ceremony March 1 at McGill Training Center.
"You are truly the vanguards of what we do around the globe," said Wendel to a troop formation of 70 Soldiers representing the division's 11 units. "I truly believe in this mission. I see that this mission we have can't be underestimated, shortchanged or taken for granted."
Wendel took the reigns of responsibility from Maj. Gen. (P) J. Michael Bednarek, who served as commanding general since June 2008.
Bednarek will assume command of First Army at Fort Gillem, Ga., replacing Lt. Gen. Thomas G. Miller. First Army is the headquarters command of First Army Division East and First Army Division West.
First Army Division East was established in March 2007 to mobilize, train and deploy Reserve component units in accordance with combatant commander, Department of the Army and Forces Command directives. The division provides training to joint, interagency, combined and active Army forces. Its area of responsibility spans 27 states and territories east of the Mississippi River.
In his remarks at the ceremony, Miller said Wendel is "well-grounded and well-trained" and sees the "big picture" in assuming command.
"We can only think of what more he can do for Division East," said Miller, noting that senior Army leaders were "elated" when Wendel's name was put forward to replace Bednarek.
"I'm confident that there's nothing more that you can ask for than to have another Soldier like this," said Miller of Wendel. "We appreciate your being here."
Wendel graduated from Furman University in Greenville, S.C., in 1979 with a degree in business administration. That year he was commissioned in the infantry, and has since served in a variety of command and staff positions in the U.S., South America, Europe and Southwest Asia.
Wendel later earned a master's degree in public administration from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and a master's in Strategic Studies and Theory Strategy from the U.S. Army War College. His military education also includes the Command and General Staff College.
Wendel assumes command of First Army Division East following an assignment as the deputy director for operations, U.S. Army Africa Command, Stuttgart, Germany. Prior to his assignment with AFRICOM, Wendel served as the director of operations, U.S. Central Command, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
The ceremony began with the invocation by Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Trenton Lewis of First Army Division East and the presentation of white roses to Wendel's wife, Denise, and red roses to Bednarek's wife, Holly. Music was provided by the 319th Army Band from Fort Totten, the former U.S. Army installation in Queens, N.Y., as well as bugler Maj. Jari Villanueva from the Maryland Defense Force.
Distinguished guests included military dignitaries from across the Army command as well as Installation Commander Col. Daniel L. Thomas; Installation Command Sgt. Maj. Mike W. Watkins; Debbie Alexander, wife of Gen. Keith B. Alexander, director of the National Security Agency and commander of U.S. Cyber Command; and Denise Nooe, a representative of Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
In his parting remarks, Bednarek thanked the Soldiers under his command and the senior military leaders who have mentored him throughout his more than 35-year career. He thanked Miller for his seasoned leadership and vision and called First Army Command Sgt. Maj. Edwin Rodriguez "steadfast and loyal" and the consummate professional.
"This is a humbling occasion for Holly and I," Bednarek said. "This division has been incredibly blessed."
Wendel thanked Miller for his support and called Bednarek a great warrior.
"I will do my very best every day," Wendel said.