POSTED: Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 5:17pm
UPDATED: Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 5:23pm
Fort Bliss, TX (U.S. Army) — Maj. Gen. Sean B. Macfarland, 1st AD and Fort Bliss Commanding General:
Thank you, Fort Bliss and El Paso!
My family and I were humbled by the overwhelming support we received from Fort Bliss and the El Paso community last week. As many of you know, we are no strangers to Fort Bliss; my career began here in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment 32 years ago and I served here as the JTF-North commander a few years ago. Fort Bliss is in my blood; my grandfather served here in the early 1930s as a second lieutenant in 1st Cavalry Division’s Horse Artillery. My father’s older brother was born in William Beaumont Army Hospital. Most importantly, as I mentioned during the change of command, this is where I met my wife, Lynda, of 29 years, an El Paso native and UTEP graduate.
This community really came out to support us last week, demonstrating the class and hospitality I have always associated with El Paso. Thank you to everyone who showed their support during the change of command ceremony, particularly the terrific Fort Bliss Soldiers.
A look ahead
Over the past week, the local news pointed out that Maj. Gen. Pittard and I have a long-standing personal relationship. We are great friends, former West Point classmates and fellow Armor officers. In fact, we have known each other for most of our adult lives. Coming back onto Fort Bliss a few weeks ago, I could not help but recognize all of the great work this installation has done to facilitate Pittard’s vision. Fort Bliss really has become an oasis in the desert. It has grown from the dusty back country I knew back in the 1980s into a modern force-projection platform. This really is one of the Army’s premier installations, one which offers an incredible quality of life and hosts the only tank division in our force.
My intent is to build on Pittard’s ingenuity and the herculean efforts of all the units on this installation to continue to shape Fort Bliss as the best place in our Army to train and deploy to fight our nation’s wars. There are challenges ahead as our Army draws down, reduces its budget by more than $12 billion, and works through a sequestration that may stretch into FY14. Together with Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie Kelley, I am committed to ensuring we meet those challenges and continue with Pittard’s legacy. Fort Bliss is a great place to live and train and that will not change.
If there is a central focus to my command it is this: our nation remains at war and new contingencies are on the horizon. Let’s keep in mind our job is to win our nation’s wars and to deter and defeat emerging threats. We can’t outsource our warrior skills. Lethality is a basic tenet of our Army’s doctrine and is a focus here at Fort Bliss. Everything we do should contribute in some way to combat readiness … everything.
Unit highlight: 4/1 AD
This past weekend, one of my first acts as commanding general was the honor of welcoming back the final 48 Soldiers from 4/1 AD’s deployment to Afghanistan, to include Col. Terry Cook, Highlander 6. These Soldiers spent the weekend with their families and are now reintegrating before enjoying a well-deserved block leave.
We are so proud of the Highlanders for their work with the Afghan National Security Forces as well as the 4/1 Soldiers and leaders back here on Fort Bliss who kept the brigade trained and ready for the past nine months.
More than 34 million Americans traveled during this past long weekend. Americans barbecued, visited family, and played softball. Many had picnics, visited malls, and took advantage of sales at department stores. For many Americans, Memorial Day weekend simply means the beginning of summer. Those of us who committed to military service, however, will never forget that Memorial Day is principally a time of solemn remembrance of those who have died in our nation’s wars.
While last week was a great welcome, the change of command ceremony was conducted under the long shadow of our continuing war in Afghanistan. The day prior, we memorialized five Soldiers from 1/1 AD, a brigade I commanded in combat during the surge in Iraq. The Ready First now finds itself immersed in another war in another country. On May 14, the war in Afghanistan ended suddenly for three more Ready First Soldiers, Spc. William Gilbert, Spc. Mitchell Daehling, and Pfc. Cody Towse. We will recognize these Soldiers and their sacrifice with a memorial ceremony at the 1AD Chapel June 5.
As we return to work following Memorial Day, please keep these heroes and their grieving families in your thoughts in prayers.
This past weekend, we paid homage to all of our fallen with a somber ceremony at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery. This ceremony allowed us to remember the reason for this particular holiday. We owe our war dead a debt we can never repay, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try. Thanks for all you do to honor and support our Gold Star families and our wounded warriors.
El Paso – It’s all good
Fort Bliss has long been the best-kept secret in the Army, and not only because of the great training opportunities here. El Paso is a thriving border city, with a great history and a tremendous spirit. This community loves Soldiers and their families and there is so much to do here.
If you are a Fort Bliss Soldier and you are hunkered down in your barracks room or on-post housing, you really should log off Facebook and get out into El Paso! Visit the San Elizario Art District with your family, walk around downtown, take a walk through history at the El Paso Mission Trail. I have been all over this country and I can tell you there are very few military installations with a community that offers this much. Get off post and take advantage of all the good that is El Paso!
Although I am changing the name of my commander’s report, I want everyone to understand my commitment to Comprehensive Soldier Fitness is absolute. That includes physical fitness, but extends to the other domains of fitness as well. All of these aspects of fitness contribute to combat readiness and I’ll be talking about them in turn over time.
As I close out my first column as your commanding general, I want to make it clear I am here to serve you, the Soldier and family member at Fort Bliss. I will use this column as a platform to communicate my ideas and insights to you and I encourage you to use our official Facebook page and the CG’s hotline to communicate with me. We have merged our Garrison, PAO, and 1AD Facebook pages and now have a single, renamed Facebook page that you can reach at the barcode on the main page of fbmonitor.com. The CG’s hotline is still active at (915) 744-IRON.
I will continue to evolve this column to best serve you. I would love your feedback on how we can best facilitate two-way communication. If you have any ideas, please email my public affairs officer at the second barcode located on the main page of fbmonitor.com.
Again, thank you all so much for welcoming my family and me with open arms. This city and this installation have been incredibly supportive of me and I certainly plan to reciprocate.