Army Maj. Gen. Michael X. Garrett relinquished command of U.S. Army Alaska to Army Maj. Gen. Michael H. Shields in a change of command ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's Pershing Parade Field, July 30.
In remarks, reviewing officer Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, U.S. Army Pacific commanding general, gave praise and admiration to Garrett's hard work and commitment during his tenure as USARAK commander.
"Since assuming command in May of 2012 Mike was superb in providing a focused environment for mission readiness in Alaska while also reaching out skillfully to keep partners in the Indo-Asian Pacific region, like our relationships with Mongolia," Brooks said. "These initiatives were absolutely essential to our success - not only here in Alaska, but really throughout the entire Pacific region and I thank you for truly making mountains look like mole hills."
Garrett stated in his final remarks that he felt America was fortunate to have such dedicated, talented Soldiers prepared to defend her, and that it was his honor and privilege to lead the Soldiers of USARAK.
"When I arrived 14 months ago, your leaders helped me assess this command and refine the vision of what we wanted to accomplish, and then we all moved out together and we made a difference," Garrett said.
Garrett spoke about the future of USARAK and described the past year as being a year of transition for units in Alaska, from a mission of prepared predictability to a mission of ambiguity.
"Not long ago the Arctic Wolves [1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division] trained to deploy with a known mission, to a known location for a known amount of time," Garrett said. "Today, they can't be certain of what their next mission will be so their transition has been to one to be prepared to face the unknown. Today they are ready for just about anything, anytime, anywhere."
In his remarks, Garrett applauded the Army's decision to send Shields to succeed him.
"As General Brooks said, Alaska will always be precious to the Garrett family and it is a little tough to stand here on this field and relinquish command, however the Army certainly got it right from my perspective," Garrett said. "Mike Shields is not only a talented Soldier, officer and general officer, but he's a good friend."
Brooks spoke highly of Shields' prior accomplishments and his return to Alaska as he starts his tour as USARAK commander, assuring the audience that Shields brings deep experience into command and that he will lead them into new heights and new achievements.
During his remarks, Brooks talked about the strategic importance Alaska has due to its geographic location.
"The United States Army has been in Alaska since 1867," Brooks said. "It has a long-standing relationship with the state of Alaska and provides a thriving platform where the Army prepares to meet the requirements of our nation while training in the challenging, arctic conditions, while actively participating in community affairs and while providing assistance when needed during natural disasters."
He added, "In addition to being an integral part to the United States Army Alaska Command, in defending the homeland, U.S. Army Alaska provides U.S. Army Pacific with a focused, early-entry mission capability and acts as the joint-force land-component command for homeland defense and civil support for Alaska when they are required."
Shields was commissioned as an Infantry second lieutenant and graduated Norwich University in 1984.
He first served as a rifle and scout platoon leader in the 7th Infantry Division (Light), then commanded both Mechanized Infantry and long range surveillance companies in Germany.
His follow-on command brought him to the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he deployed to Afghanistan with the 82nd in August 2002.
After attending the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Penn., he commanded the 172nd SBCT from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, leading them through 12 months of combat in Ninewah Province, Iraq, and a four-month extension in Baghdad, Iraq, from August 2005 through November 2006, for which they received the Valorous Unit Award.
"To the Soldiers I look forward to serving with you once again," Shields said. "With uncertain dynamic global security situation, USARAK plays a key role providing trained and ready forces."