By Brandon BieltzMarch 11, 2011
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. - Maj. Gen. (P) J. Michael Bednarek is a familiar face at Fort Meade.
The former commanding general of First Army Division East has called the installation home since June 2008. But now he is heading for his next assignment as commanding general of First Army headquarters at Fort Gillem, Ga., where he will oversee command of both First Army Division East and First Army Division West.
His new assignment coincides with his upcoming promotion to lieutenant general.
While he is looking forward to his new assignment, Bednarek is quick to praise the Soldiers who have served alongside him during his Army career.
"It\'s all about Soldiers, it's all about our great noncommissioned officers that have given me the tools and the opportunity just to continue to serve in whatever capacity," he said. "We're very, very blessed just being able to wear the uniform, get up in the morning and know you're still making a contribution, and feel like you're still making a difference for our Soldiers and our families, for our nation."
Bednarek, who was born in London, graduated from Old Dominion University in Virginia with a bachelor's degree in biology. Bednarek was commissioned to the infantry in 1975. He later earned a master's degree in personnel management.
Bednarek's military education includes infantry officer basic and advanced courses, underwater operations, the Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College.
During his 35-year career, Bednarek has served many roles and commanded numerous infantry regiments, Ranger regiments and training brigades. His assignments included: Infantry branch representative for the Army Personnel Center, Fort Benning, Ga.; duty with the 3rd Battalion, 325th Airborne Combat team, Vicenza, Italy; deputy commander to the 9th Infantry Regiment, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.; commander of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment; commander, 4th Training Brigade, Fort Jackson, S.C.; assistant division commander, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; and deputy commanding general, 25th Infantry Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Three years ago, Bednarek assumed command of First Army Division East, which is responsible for training and mobilizing Soldiers east of the Mississippi. Each year, the division and its nine brigades prepare thousands of Soldiers "heading to the fight," said Bednarek.
"That's probably the most area that gives us pride, honor and thanks for what we've done," said Bednarek, who resides on post with his wife, Holly.
During his tenure at Fort Meade, Bednarek oversaw the mobilization of more than 105,000 service members in support of missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Kosovo and Egypt.
Bednarek also helped consolidate the mobilization units that were once spread throughout the division's territory to three mobilization units at Camp Atterbury, Ind., Camp Shelby, Miss., and Joint Base Myer-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
"We were scattered from Patrick Air Force Base Florida up to Fort Drum [New York] and all points in between," Bednarek said. "We have transformed the organization to be more efficient, yet staying very effective to ensure that those forces we have in harm's way are combat-trained and ready."
With the drawdowns in the Middle East, Bednarek said that it is still important for Soldiers to be trained to standard.
"Our citizen Soldiers and our Reserve teammates will no longer be needed in the broad scope and numbers [of] the past," he said. "But there will always be a need and always a requirement for assured access to our Reserve components to make sure that our nation has what it needs, regardless of what that would be in the future."
First Army Division East staff members such as Sgt. Letrica Nixon-Washington said they are sad to see Bednarek leave.
Nixon-Washington, Bednarek's executive administrator noncommissioned officer in charge, called Bednarek a good leader and a "man of nature" who is very calm.
"He always manages to laugh at least once during the day," she said.
Maj. Latonya Walker, clinical operations officer for First Army Division East, said Bednarek always put his Soldiers and their families first.
"He makes sure the Soldiers are taken care of," she said.
Walker said his leadership and personality will be missed. Bednarek treated all his Soldiers the same and anything that he asked of them, he was willing to do as well, Walker said.
"He is a Soldier's Soldier," she said.