Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby returns home Sunday after a year as the American military's second-in-command in Iraq, but he won't stick around Joint Base Lewis-McChord much longer.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday nominated the Fort Lewis and I Corps commander to serve as director of the strategic plans and policy section on the Joint Staff in Washington, D.C. There, Jacoby will lead a staff of 250 that examines geopolitical trends and threats and develops strategy and policy for the military’s top officials.
He also was tapped to serve as a senior member on the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations Military Staff Committee.
Jacoby is the 62nd commander at the base south of Tacoma and has served in that role since June 2007. He is married and has three sons.
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A relinquishment of command ceremony is tentatively scheduled for late April. After that, Maj. Gen. J.D. Johnson, the corps deputy commanding general, will run the base until the Pentagon announces Jacoby’s replacement.
Thursday’s announcement came minutes before Lewis-McChord announced the return of Jacoby and the remainder of I Corps from its yearlong deployment to Iraq, where it oversaw day-to-day American military operations. Brig. Gen. Jeff Mathis has served as acting base commander in Jacoby’s absence.
The return party of 50 soldiers will land at Gray Army Airfield at Lewis-McChord on Sunday afternoon, a day after I Corps hands over its responsibilities to III Corps during a ceremony in Baghdad.
Jacoby, a Detroit native and West Point graduate, was not available to comment Thursday.
But he told The News Tribune during an interview in October, as he was spending his two weeks of leave from the war, that his best days in Iraq are the ones when he can put on his “battle rattle” and spend time outside the wire with soldiers.
And during perhaps his most visible moment to the American public – an appearance last June on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” – Jacoby gave credit to the soldiers who filled the seats in the Al Faw Palace for the broadcast.
“I’ve got a fun job. Gen. Odierno’s gotta deal with politicians and agencies in other countries,” he said, referring to the top American commander in Iraq. “I get to spend my day with these guys right here.”
Jacoby still must clear a confirmation process by the U.S. Senate but likely won’t have a hearing because his new job doesn’t include a promotion to four-star general.
He will leave nearly three years after he took command of I Corps and Fort Lewis. Despite being deployed for about a third of his tenure, he was involved in several high-profile decisions and events locally:
• He reversed a predecessor’s unpopular decision to lump the memorial services of all Fort Lewis soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan into one monthly service.
• He oversaw the training and deployment of I Corps on its first official combat deployment since the Korean War.
• He demanded reforms and helped manage the community fallout after the February 2009 overdose death of Lakewood teenager Leah King in a Fort Lewis barracks. The crime highlighted the lax gate security and other oversight that allowed an underage civilian to get on post and into a soldier’s quarters.
“I have the responsibility to make sure it’s a safe, secure environment,” he said at the time.
Jacoby also was the post commander in October 2008 when it was announced that 10,000 Fort Lewis troops – including two Stryker brigades – would deploy to Iraq. One of those Stryker brigades would be redirected to Afghanistan, and a third saw its training schedule accelerated and was sent to Iraq last summer.
All three brigades will return home later this year, after Jacoby is gone, ending the largest combined local deployment since the two wars began.