The most memorable 25 months of my military life

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Photo by Gustavo Bahena, Public Affairs Office

I love the mission, I love the people and I love the Mojave Desert.

For those reasons, I will the miss the National Training Center as, I and my wife Stephanie, go to our next assignment in the Republic of Korea, where we will serve in the 2nd Infantry Division.

I was fortunate to have commanded here just over two years and for 17 training rotations, being part of a mission that we all share at the NTC. That mission is to train to win America’s wars. We do that here by preparing brigade combat teams to deploy, fight, and win decisively.

For my family, it’s been the assignment of a lifetime. We have served with some of the best people in the Army and they include Soldiers and their families, Department of the Army civilians, and contract personnel. Without a doubt, the people are the most important part of this installation. It takes a special kind of person to come out here to the Mojave Desert, bring family here and make a home out of a house, make a life out of an assignment.

It takes a little while, but you eventually get to see the beauty of the Mojave Desert and the totality of the training area. When you combine that with the awesome mission we have – every day becomes an awesome day.

The NTC is the place where I learned to soldier. As a tanker and cavalry officer, I rotated here five times, before serving as commander of Operations Group in 2009. Each time I came to the desert I learned about myself, I learned about my Soldiers, and I learned how to think – not “what to think.” I learned how to solve complex problems and I learned how to build teams. I did it as a lieutenant and I find I’m still doing it now, 32 years into my career.

The significance of the NTC is paramount to building combat readiness for our Army. Our rotations have increased in complexity and we’ve also been on the cutting edge of doctrine development. What the NTC delivers for the Army is a premier leader development experience, the best that you can have outside of actual combat. Being on the battlefield is life altering and changing, but short of that, Soldiers go to a combat training center to really “throw down” and learn their profession. The NTC challenges and improves leaders from the sergeant E-5 team leader up to the brigade commander and command sergeant major. They come here to figure out how to bring victory out of chaos. They motivate people and learn how to lead them when they’re exhausted; they make something out of nothing.

All of that is possible because of the great support from families and the NTC team comprised of Garrison, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 916th Support Brigade, OPS GRP, tMEDDAC and DENTAC. All these people make something out of nothing and then they train up to 10 brigade combat teams a year. The Garrison command team of Col. Jon Braga and Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos Esmurria have been doing the Lord’s work here in bringing the entire IMCOM team together to make this a great place to raise our families. And they’ve done it in times of shrinking budgets, reductions and even a layoff. Thank you for all your support and understanding as we worked our way through the budget control act of 2011, the furlough and the uncertainty. Everybody on this post trusted where we were headed and we all rode it out together.

It’s been the most memorable 25 months of my military life, serving here at the NTC, but my wife and I are excited the Army has given us another opportunity to command and excited to be going to Korea. We have a lot of ties to the Mojave Desert – all the great people here. I will be a sad man when I drive out that gate for the last time. God bless you all and continue to watch over you as you train this great Army of ours! Train the Force!