The Defense Department on Monday named a new commanding general to lead Army operations at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and his post will reflect some of the changes under way at the local base.
Maj. Gen. Curtis “Mike” Scaparrotti’s nomination to lead the Army’s I Corps must be approved by the Senate, along with his promotion to lieutenant general. He would succeed interim commander Maj. Gen. John Johnson, and he’s expected to be confirmed by the end of this year.
Johnson took the reins in June, when Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr. relinquished command after three years to take a position at the Pentagon with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Scaparrotti would be the 63nd commanding general in the 93-year history of the Army installation, whose lineage dates to Fort Lewis and, before that, Camp Lewis.
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He faces markedly different challenges than Jacoby, who led the corps as it geared up for combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Those soldiers have mostly returned home, and Lewis- McChord is preparing to help them re-enter stateside life.
Today, the base is holding a ceremony to mark the return of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, a 3,800-soldier Stryker unit that spent the past year in Iraq. The 4th and 5th Stryker brigades also came home from war zones this summer.
Like many of the combat veterans at Lewis-McChord, Scaparrotti is coming off a recent assignment in Afghanistan. He led the 82nd Airborne Division in a 14-province area of Afghanistan, where the unit collaborated with NATO allies and Afghan national forces. He returned to Fort Bragg, N.C., in June.
“He brings a war fighter’s mentality to the corps,” said retired Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, who preceded Scaparrotti as the leader of forces in eastern Afghanistan. “You couldn’t think of a more honorable and experienced soldier for this assignment.”
Scaparrotti also will oversee the continued expansion of the Army presence in the South Sound, with more than 5,500 soldiers and nearly 9,000 family members projected to arrive between now and 2015, according to a newly released Army impact study.
I Corps consists of more than 35,000 soldiers, with an emphasis on the Pacific Rim. Jacoby, however, led the corps to Iraq for a year in 2009-10 and was in charge of day-to-day U.S. military operations in that country.
Fort Lewis is I Corps’ traditional home. Lewis merged with McChord Air Force Base in February to become Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Scaparrotti’s responsibilities will include command of Lewis, but that designation refers to the soldiers and equipment at the base. Army Col. Tommy Brittain would retain his assignment as the commander of the joint base, managing its day-to-day operations.
Schloesser said Scaparrotti’s work with NATO allies in Afghanistan will serve him well at I Corps because of its frequent overseas assignments with Pacific Rim allies.
Schloesser acknowledged that the months ahead will place a priority on soldiers reconnecting with their families, but he said the corps would have to get ready for the unexpected.
“Clearly he has responsibilities for the base, and that includes taking care of the soldiers and their families as they reunite. It also includes preparing them for long deployments,” said Schloesser.
Scaparrotti is a West Point graduate who has served in the Army since 1978. He led the 3rd Battalion of the 325th Airborne Combat Team from May 1994 to April 1996, which included missions in Rwanda and Bosnia- Herzegovina.
Scaparrotti was the assistant division commander for the 1st Armored Division from July 2003 to July 2004 in Iraq. He took command of the 82nd Airborne in October 2008.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 email@example.com