MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- While the games of 30th Olympiad were played in London and just hours before the suspenseful landing of NASA's Curiosity on the surface of Mars, the U.S. Army civil affairs community marked their own history as a new general assumed command, here, Aug. 5.
NASA's Ames Research Center on California's historic Moffett Federal Airfield served as the site where the newly-promoted Brig. Gen. Stephen K. Curda assumed command of the California-based 351st Civil Affairs Command.
The commanding general of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Command (Airborne) Maj. Gen. Jeffrey A. Jacobs presided over the ceremony, deferring his honors to Curda, a resident of Wilmette, Ill., near Chicago.
Curda assumes command of the 351st CACOM, a unit of the U.S. Army Reserve, which is regionally aligned with the Pacific Rim, providing specialized expertise for that area, at a time when Asia and the Pacific have become the focus of the renewed U.S. defense strategy, said Jacobs.
"I have no doubt that Brig. Gen. Steve Curda is exactly the right officer to lead the 351 [CACOM] during this time of transition," said Jacobs.
The 351st CACOM is currently supporting three simultaneous combatant commanders in Central Command with operation in Afghanistan, African Command with operations in Djibouti and Pacific Command with exercises and operations throughout the region.
"Pacific Partnership and the other 351 [CACOM] missions in the Pacific has demonstrated the crucial role that civil affairs plays in phase zero operations and how important those operations are," said Jacobs, referring to the operations that focus on stabilization of governments, rather than war.
Full military honors were observed during the ceremony, with the 204th Army Band from Seattle providing music for the ceremony and a blank 11-round artillery salute from the Salute Battery, 5th Brigade, 75th Mission Training Command. Local elected officials, military service members and retirees, family and friends watched the ceremony.
Addressing his soldiers during the ceremony, Curda said, "all of you stand before me, have overcome challenges and adversaries, whether that be at work or in life or even in war, we will continue to be well-trained and a ready fighting force."
Curda promoted to the rank of brigadier general the morning before the assumption of command ceremony, under the hand of Jacobs. Curda's spouse, Leslie Curda, Ph.D. pinned his rank on, while the Curda son, Major, assisted his father as he donned his general's belt and flag for the first time.
Curda assumed command of the 351st CACOM from the acting Commander, Col. Jimmy A. Rankin, who commanded the unit from May 6, 2012. Assumptions of command are not frequently used in Army ceremony, as typically command will be passed from one commander to another, rather than to an acting commander, said the senior enlisted advisor of the 351st CACOM, Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Martello.
"We're [351st CACOM] organized into eight battalions, two brigades in five states," said Martello, "the experience, background and training of the commander is more than equal to the job."