By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
Maj. Gen. Jefforey Smith relinquished command of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox to Brig. Gen. Peggy Combs in a ceremony at Waybur Theater on Fort Knox March 6.
After the traditional cannon salute, the last round fired was presented to Smith.
As noted by Lt. Gen. David Halverson, deputy commander of Training and Doctrine Command and reviewing officer for the event, changes of command ceremonies run deep in Army tradition.
“Like weddings, changes of command are a time of renewal, a time to remember that command is a privilege,” Halverson said.
Just like at weddings, many family members were recognized and thanked. As part of the day’s events, three young representatives—a cadet in Junior ROTC, another cadet in ROTC, and a newly-commissioned second lieutenant—each recited their organization’s creeds.
While at the helm of Cadet Command, Smith drove several significant changes: relocating the Leader Development and Assessment Course from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. to Fort Knox and a total redesign of the ROTC training, dubbed BOLD (Basic Officer Leader Development) Transformation. Halverson described that transformation as the first reshaping of the organization in 30 years.
While praising Smith’s leadership, Halverson went on to recommend Combs.
“The Army is smart; a lot of thought went into choosing the next leader,” he said. “General Smith created a great plan and Gen. Combs will execute it; we will set the conditions to make cadets successful.”
After thanking family and friends, Smith told the audience he was not old enough to claim any legacy, but he would remember Fort Knox fondly.
“This is the capstone of my career,” he said. “I will always cherish this assignment; I can’t think of anything more important than the duty to develop young leaders.”
He also assured the numerous community leaders in the audience about the future of Fort Knox.
“Fort Knox is the human capital of the Army,” he said. “It’s here to stay; it’s a critical part of the Army.”
As part of his thanks, Smith spoke of the thousands of volunteer s who donate time and energy to the Knox community.
“Thanks to all our volunteers; we couldn’t do it without them,” Smith said. “Outside the gates, we get great support from the community leaders.”
Reluctant to relinquish command at this critical juncture, Smith said he asked to stay a third year, but was not given the opportunity. How-ever, he heartily en-dorsed his replacement.
“I have never known anybody more energetic, more committed than Peggy,” he said. “She was previously my deputy and I am thrilled that—if I have to give up these colors—I am passing them to Peggy.”
Combs served most recently as the Chief of Chemical as well as the commandant of the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Her tactical assignments have included staff officer positions at battalion, brigade and division level. She has commanded the HHC, Aviation Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; the 84th Chemical Battalion, and 3rd Chemical Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. She served as the deputy commanding general of Cadet Command in 2012.
Her awards include the Army Legion of Merit (two oak leaf clusters), the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Meritorious Service Medal (five oak leaf clusters), the Joint Service Achievement Medal (one oak leaf cluster), the Army Commendation Medal (three oak leaf clusters), the Army Achievement Medal (one oak leaf cluster), the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Parachutists Badge and the Air Assault Badge.
After her thanks to the distinguished visitors and family, Combs said when others learned she would be moving to Fort Knox, they always asked, ‘Is there really any gold in Fort Knox?’ She said she told them all that the Gold Vault is outside the gates of Fort Knox, but yes there really is gold at Fort Knox—but it’s inside the gates!
“The gold is in the potential of Soldiers and future Soldiers that those cadets represent; there’s gold in our tenant units who all provide such valuable services to the Army: the Human Resources Command shepherds Soldiers throughout their careers; USAREC who finds more quality Soldiers for the Army; 80th Training Command which trains our reservists; and all of our (Forces Command) units who take that potential and harness it to do great things overseas,” Combs said. “To the community—you have guarded the gold here for a long time.”
She closed by repeat-ing a remark of a former governor of Florida who said “I’m not here to stay, I’m here to make a difference.”
“Well, I’m here to make a difference, too,” Combs said, “and I challenge you to join me to make a difference to the Army, this post and the Soldiers and their Families.”