By Marisa Petrich, Northwest GuardianJuly 4, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- Three weeks after their redeployment from Kabul, I Corps Soldiers turn their attention east of Afghanistan. Lieutenant General Robert B. Brown took command of America's Corps Tuesday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in a ceremony that included more than 2,000 Soldiers in 22 unit formations and a 75mm Pack Howitzer salute, but his focus was on neighbors far and near.
Brown's remarks signaled a shift that reflected a new national defense focus, returning the corps to its traditional missions in the Pacific Rim. He spoke of his intent to renew old acquaintances there while expressing joy in returning home.
"I tell you, the Browns are thrilled, absolutely thrilled, to be back in the Pacific Northwest," he said at the ceremony on Watkins Field.
Brown commanded 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis in 2002, and led it to Iraq two years later as only the second Stryker brigade combat team to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Brown replaced Lt. Gen. Mike Scaparrotti, who took command of I Corps in October 2010. Scaparrotti returned June 13 after a yearlong deployment as the commander of the International Security Assistance Forces Joint Command and deputy commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. All the while, he supported the Families and Soldiers of the corps.
His next assignment will be as the director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.
"General Scaparrotti has followed through on his commitment to make this installation better," Gen. David M. Rodriguez said. Rodriguez commands U.S. Army Forces Command and served Tuesday as reviewing officer for the ceremony.
The future will change for I Corps, but its challenges won't diminish. While Brown and his wife, Patti, brace for cooler Pacific Northwest temperatures after leaving The Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., the new CG prepares for the arrival at JBLM of 7th Infantry Division Headquarters in the fall.
"We are a huge part of that," Brown said.
I Corps will remain deployable, still eligible for rotations in Afghanistan, but there will be a resumption of exercises in Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, partnering again with U.S. allies in the Pacific. Underscoring those relationships, officials from Japan, South Korea and the commanding general of U.S. Army Pacific, Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, were present Tuesday.
As for the new division headquarters, its arrival reflects major changes in the installation since Brown left it in 2005.
"I don't believe how the base has grown ... We definitely need a division," he said.
While Brown attends to his operational responsibilities, he also plans to direct energies toward community outreach. He hopes to build relationships not only with local neighbors, but others as far away as Portland, Ore., to demonstrate that negative news is not all Soldiers have to offer communities in the JBLM region.
"Folks here want to support the military," he said. "We need to show them how."