Role familiar for new general

The scenery will change when the Army general tapped to become the new commander of Fort Lewis moves from Alaska, but the challenges he faces will be similar in his new assignment.

If the Senate approves his recent nomination, Maj. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., 52, will lead the much larger installation that is growing both in terms of active-duty population and number of deployments in support of the ongoing war.

Jacoby would succeed Lt. Gen. James Dubik, who will lead the command responsible for training Iraqi security forces. With his new assignment, Jacoby would be promoted to lieutenant general and receive a third star.

A change-of-command ceremony is scheduled for later this month.

Jacoby oversees Fort Richardson outside Anchorage and Fort Wainwright outside Fairbanks as commander of U.S. Army Alaska. Both installations have also experienced rapid growth in recent years.

The level of construction the past three years has exceeded anything seen in the past 20 years, said Chuck Canterbury, a spokesman for U.S. Army Alaska. About 12,800 active-duty soldiers are assigned to the two installations.

"It's just been going gangbusters both here and in Fort Wainwright," he said.

Jacoby was unavailable for comment Monday.

A brand-new airborne brigade began forming at Fort Richardson shortly after Jacoby arrived in the summer of 2005. The unit is now deployed to Iraq.

Fort Wainwright is the home to one of the Army's seven Stryker combat brigades, now known as the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division. Jacoby was heavily involved in the effort to assist and comfort families when it was announced last summer the brigade's tour in Iraq would be extended four months.

Some soldiers who returned home were ordered back to Iraq, Canterbury said, while many families had to cancel trips and weddings.

"That was a major effort, and he was really involved in supporting families," Canterbury said.

Fort Richardson is adjacent to Anchorage, and Mayor Mark Begich said Jacoby is closely engaged with the community.

"The troops love him and the community really respects him," the mayor said.

Jacoby's wife and Begich's wife, Deborah, are actively involved in an initiative to support military families.

Fort Lewis will grow to more than 30,000 active duty soldiers with the formation this summer of the newest of its three Stryker combat brigades, the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

It has more than 6,000 soldiers deployed overseas. An additional 4,900 are slated to deploy by June, including another Stryker combat brigade, the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Begich said he had dinner with Jacoby on Saturday, the day news of the nomination broke, and the general was both excited and humbled by it.

"We're going to miss him up here," Begich said, "but we recognize that he's advancing. He's one of the big cheeses now."

Christian Hill covers the city of Lacey and military for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5427 or at chill@theolympian.com.