By Susanne Kappler, Fort Jackson LeaderApril 5, 2012
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- When Maj. Gen. James Milano hands over the reins of the Army Training Center and Fort Jackson to Brig. Gen. Bryan Roberts Tuesday, it will mark the end of Milano's 33-year career in the Army.
Milano said he was shocked by how quickly the years have passed.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet," he said. "I like what I do. I've had a blast doing it. When you do things like that, the time just goes by real fast."
He said he couldn't have asked for a better assignment than Fort Jackson to culminate his military career.
"This has been a thoroughly enjoyable tour of duty for me," Milano said. "It's been a very rewarding 21, 22 months. It really has. I didn't know much about the mission here or anything about Fort Jackson before I got here, but I've been very pleasantly surprised, both on post and off post. There are a lot of people working pretty hard every day to support our Army."
Milano took command of Fort Jackson in June 2010. During his tenure, Fort Jackson has hosted some high-profile events, like the visits of First Lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and a concert by Kid Rock. However, one of the things that Milano will remember most about his tour here are the people with whom he worked every day, he said.
"One of the things that I'm most proud of is the team we have here," Milano said. "We have great commanders throughout Fort Jackson. We have got great command sergeant major teams. We have great civilian teams out there. ... I think we've made some significant progress in building on the work of my predecessor and continuing on with that to really make everybody on Fort Jackson feel as though they're valued members of our team here."
Milano also expressed his pride in the fact that during his time here, no serious training accidents or injuries occurred.
"We've had a couple of pretty hot summers here these last two summers," he said. "And we've done some very tough, realistic, challenging training, but we've done it safely. One of the things I like to say is, 'Nothing we do in this training environment -- absolutely nothing -- is worth anybody's life or limb.'"
Milano said that one of the most pleasant surprises after coming here was to experience the support for Fort Jackson from the off-post community. He cited efforts by individuals and volunteer groups, such as the send-off deploying Navy augmentees receive every three weeks.
"I found Columbia, and really this whole surrounding area, to be the most supportive I've experienced in the Army, and I've been all over," Milano said.
One of the priorities Milano focused on during his time in command was strengthening family readiness groups.
"My wife, Kim, and I put a lot of emphasis on family readiness groups, in particular," he said. "There are some who don't think that they're as important in a TRADOC environment as they are in a FORSCOM or operational unit. I couldn't disagree more. It's the best means of getting information out to spouses who want it and helping them feel part of what their spouse is doing."
He said that working in the training environment has reinforced his respect and appreciation of noncommissioned officers in general, and drill sergeants in particular.
"These drill sergeants, every one of them, just bring eye-watering talent with them," he said. "I wish I'd realized when I was a younger officer, a troop commander, what I was getting in my unit when I got a former drill sergeant in. They're good. They're really good."
Milano has a final message to the Soldiers, family members and civilians at Fort Jackson.
"Thanks. I'm grateful for what they do, not just for Fort Jackson and our families, but for the Army."
Milano's next challenge, as he transitions into the private sector, will take him into the corporate world. He said he accepted a position with Target Corp. that will take him to Chicago.
"Unfortunately, I will not be staying in the area, at least for the short term, ... but I'm pretty excited about the opportunities that lie ahead, and I will always be grateful for having the chance to serve in the Army," he said. "I leave here with my head held very high. I've certainly given it all I can, but I'm real proud of what we've done here, real proud. And it'll continue. That's the great thing about the Army -- you go from leader to leader and you try to build on what your predecessor did and make it a little better."
Editor's note: The Change of Command from Maj. Gen. James Milano to Brig. Gen. Bryan Roberts is scheduled for 10 a.m., Tuesday at the Officers' Club.