By Wallace McBride, Fort Jackson LeaderMarch 14, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The Soldier Support Institute welcomed its new commanding general last week.
Brig. Gen. Mark McAlister relinquished command to Brig. Gen. David "Mac" MacEwen during a ceremony March 8 at the Fort Jackson Officers' Club. It was not the first time MacEwen's and McAlister's paths have crossed.
"Mac and I were together in the mud pits of Albania many years ago and I learned then the type of leader that he is," McAlister said. "I couldn't be prouder and more comfortable with the person taking the helm of SSI."
MacEwen was previously the executive officer to the Army's former vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli. His career with the Army goes back more than 30 years, and includes tours in Germany, Korea, Iraq and the Balkans. He graduated from the U.S. Naval War College and his military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.
"I want to thank the Army leadership for selecting me to command this organization," MacEwen said. "I am honored for the opportunity, and I pledge that I will do my best. Although I'm sure, if you read my bio, you'll be a little alarmed. Every organization I've commanded, every detachment, company, battalion and brigade, have all been inactivated. I think the fifth time is going to work and SSI will be around for a long, long time."
MacEwen knows the value of training and understands leadership development, said Maj.Gen. James Hodge, commanding general of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Support Command and Fort Lee, Va.
"Mac understands the importance of support to the war fighter and is a proven leader who brings an extraordinary combination of talent and experience to the position," Hodge said. "He knows the value of training and understands leader development and will continue to move the Soldier Support Institute forward into the 21st century.
"As is true with all of these ceremonies, we're losing a great command team today," Hodge said. "But, as usually is the case, we're gaining an equally awesome team in their place."
McAlister has been with Fort Jackson since 2009, and his next assignment will be as military deputy director for the Army Budget Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management and Comptroller) in Washington.
"After spending almost four years in Washington, I know I've got a better deal by leaving Washington than you do going back," MacEwen told McAlister. "But I do look forward to getting to work and to the business of training and educating our financial management, recruiting, retention, postal, music and human resources professionals."
Hodge said he was grateful to have had McAlister in charge of SSI to navigate "the waters of change."
"Mark has been a champion of training and, under his leadership, SSI has had extraordinary success," he said. "(SSI staff has) trained over 18,000 students annually and ensured that all of the training was realistic, that it was tough, that it was demanding, fast paced and adaptive, in order to produce leaders that were capable of supporting full-spectrum operations at our Army."
Last week's ceremony was also an opportunity to observe some of the Army's oldest traditions.
The Change of Command ceremony has elements dating back not only to the nation's earliest years, but to the military traditions of the Roman Empire, as well. The modern Army's Change of Command showcases the passing the unit colors from the previous commander to the incoming commander.
The ceremony has more than just an academic significance to the mission of the SSI.
"The real purpose of the ceremony has absolutely nothing to do with either one of us," McAlister said. "It really has to do with the Soldiers you see on the field. Those Soldiers represent hundreds of others, actually thousands of others when you include the students that we train and are assigned to the SSI, and the civilian support assigned to the SSI. (They) are the real reason we're here. They're the ones who do the heavy lifting. They're the ones who make sure the Soldiers who leave here and go out into the operational force are trained and ready. They're the ones who make sure the programs of instruction we have a current and relevant."
"Ceremonies like this are important to the traditions of our Army and I want to thank you for your participation," MacEwen said. "However, we can never forget what the unit crest says: praecipere militi, 'teaching the Soldier.' That's our number one job, to train those whose sole mission in life is to provide support to the finest army the world has ever seen. As you leave this field today please pray for our Soldiers who are in harm's way all over the world, and for the families that wait at home for their return."
"I have complete faith and confidence that (MacEwen) can and will continue to insure that the schoolhouse here remains viable and relevant," Hodge said. "When warriors leave Fort Jackson, each of them will be trained and ready to perform their mission anywhere on the globe."