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