Military News

Friday, July 17, 2015

Maj. Gen. Bryan Owens takes USARAK reins from Shields

by David Bedard
JBER Public Affairs

7/17/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Maj. Gen. Michael Shields relinquished command of U.S. Army Alaska to Maj. Gen. Bryan Owens in a change-of-command ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's Pershing Parade Field July 10.

Officials nominated Shields for directorship of the Pentagon's Joint Improvised-Threat Defeat Agency (previously the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization) and promotion to lieutenant general.

In his remarks, reviewing officer Gen. Vincent Brooks, U.S. Army Pacific commanding general, placed the ceremony in context of the Army's nearly 150-year history in the 49th state.

"Today's ceremony marks another milestone in the long history of the Army in Alaska," Brooks said. "Since 1867, there has been an Army presence in a place long recognized as a strategically important location for the United States of America. That strategic importance continues today as we advance our national efforts to rebalance in the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region, and as we continue to pursue our interests in the Arctic. Alaska is important to both of these efforts."

Brooks said numerous USARAK deployments to Afghanistan, peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, and partnership exercises with allied nations during Shields' tenure show the value of the Army in Alaska.

"Our arctic warriors under Major General Shields were found in places like Nepal, Mongolia, Chile, not to mention Deadhorse and the top of Mount McKinley - amazing work by a great outfit commanded by a great commander," Brooks said. "This command - filled with arctic-tough Soldiers who are unique in the joint force - demonstrated to anyone who was watching that Alaska is a strategic location for the United States, and that we can project forces from here to any place our national leaders order them to go."

Shields echoed Brooks' sentiments during his remarks.

"No organization in the U.S. military can do what these Soldiers do," Shields said. "They're the cold-weather and cold-regions proponent of the Army. They're expected to be the experts in the conduct of decisive action in support of unified land operations as well as operationally effective in extreme cold-weather environments."

Shields thanked many of the senior officers, noncommissioned officers and civilians on his staff for making his command successful. He also recognized USARAK's civilian neighbors for their support.

"To the entire Alaskan community, thank you for your patriotism and loyalty," he said. "Nowhere else in the world will you find a community more supportive of the military and so willing to express their gratitude. The love and unconditional support our Soldiers enjoy in Alaska is something special to witness and experience, and we don't take it for granted."

Above all, Shields expressed gratitude to USARAK's Soldiers.

"America is fortunate to have such dedicated, outstanding warriors, and I'm proud to have been part of such a great team," he said. "It's been an honor to lead you."

Most recently, Owens served as director of Joint Operations, U.S. European Command. He has served in every officer leadership position from platoon leader to brigade commander.

"In choosing Bryan Owens for this command, the Army chose a leader with both the warfighting credentials of a seasoned infantryman and a vast array of high-level staff positions as a warrior statesman," Brooks said.

Brooks acknowledged Owens and his wife, Jen, would face challenges, including the recently announced drawdown of more than 2,600 USARAK Soldiers.

"We are counting on Maj. Gen. Bryan Owens and Jen to move this command forward, working through the challenges of implementing the Army's directed reductions here in Alaska while also increasing the pace of engagement activities and demonstrating our capabilities around the region," he said. "I'm confident that Team Owens will be successful, because - as Bryan is known to say - in the end it comes down to leadership."

Shields - who served with Owens when they were battalion commanders at Fort Bragg, North Carolina - said he is confident the new commander is the right Soldier to succeed him.

"He has an incredible reputation, which has only grown," Shields said of Owens. "He's led a brigade in combat. He knows what sacrifice and training is required to train units ready to answer our nation's call in support of any combatant commander. Bryan Owens is simply the right leader at the right time to lead the Soldiers of U.S. Army Alaska."

Owens' previous assignments include deputy commanding general-operations (South), 25th Infantry Division in Iraq; commandant of the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia; and chief of staff for the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Owens expressed his feelings at assuming command.

"It is truly a pleasure to be back with Soldiers again and to serve in such an awesome place," he said.

"I fully commit myself to you and your families as we continue to provide trained and ready forces in support of worldwide contingencies, support theater engagements in the Pacific and the Arctic, and military operations in the Alaska Joint Operations Area in order to contribute to a stable and secure environment.

"I look forward to leading this awesome team as we create opportunities and tackle the challenges that lie ahead, including new ones announced by our Army leadership," Owens continued. "There is no doubt that [USARAK Soldiers] are the Army's premier cold-weather, high-altitude cold region experts, and I'm proud to join your ranks."

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