Civil Affairs Command completes change of command, ready for more Pacific operations

U.S. Army photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Van Tuinen

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. – Blue California skies and beautiful weather served as the backdrop for the pageantry and ceremony as Soldiers of the 351st Civil Affairs Command welcomed their new commander during a change of command ceremony at March Air Reserve Base, California on June 6.

During the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Stephen K. Curda stepped down from his near three-year tenure as the unit’s commanding officer, while Brig. Gen. William P. Barriage assumed command of the unit. Officiating over this general officer change of command was the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), Maj. Gen. Daniel R. Ammerman.

Attending the ceremony were the Curda and Barriage families, a number of dignitaries, including the Mayor of Upland, California, Ray Musser, and dozens of senior officers representing nearly all the Defense Department’s services. The formation of Soldiers was composed of the subordinate units of the 351 CAC, which encompasses three brigades and eight battalions stationed throughout the western United States to include Hawaii.

Prior to an inspection of the Soldiers by the general officers, the ceremony included four volleys of cannon fire from the 75th Training Command’s salute battery, which fired blank, but thunderous rounds to honor Ammerman, who deferred the honors to Curda.

While addressing the attendees, Ammerman praised Curda for his accomplishments while in command and his over three-decade career.

“You’ve added to your long list of accomplishments during this command,” Ammerman said.

“These accomplishments include your efforts to transition the command from Operation Enduring Freedom and Horn of Africa into activities supporting theater security cooperation with United States Pacific Command and the United States Army, Pacific,” he said.

The unit was earlier this year officially aligned with operational control under U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) to support civil-military operations in the Pacific Rim. This new relationship has also developed a stronger cooperation between the 351 CAC and the U.S. Army, Pacific (USARPAC), the senior Army command under USPACOM.

Representing Gen. Vincent Brooks and USARPAC at the ceremony was the guest speaker, the Deputy Commanding General, Army Reserve, Brig. Gen. Brian E. Alvin.

Alvin thanked Curda for his distinguished service, while welcoming Barriage to command at the 351 CAC. He recognized the contributions the 351 CAC has made under its new relationships.

“351st Civil Affairs Command greatly enhances capabilities in the USARPAC AOR [area of responsibility], while ensuring we are fully capable to responding to regional and local challenges,” he said.

Alvin, quickly itemized scope of the Pacific theater that include 36 countries, six of the world’s largest standing armies, more than a thousand different languages, all spread across 16 time zones.

“The culture and complexity of the theater is challenged by numerous threats, such as insurgencies, natural disasters, food and water security and human trafficking, just to name a few,” he explained.

Alvin said the 351st would play an important role in the Rebalance to Asia, as USARPAC would continue to employ reserve units in engagements and exercises in the region through concepts like Pacific Pathways.

The incoming commander, Barriage is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Joint Guard in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He came from the 75th Training Command in Houston, Texas with several previous command positions in the Civil Affairs community. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

“The 351st Civil Affairs Command is an outstanding organization with a tremendous legacy and achievement of service,” Barriage said after assuming command.

He thanked Curda for his time in command and for his accomplishments during that time and the sacrifices his family made while he commanded the unit. He thanked Ammerman for having the confidence in his leadership to assume command of the 351 CAC.

“I’m proud to be with you,” he concluded.

The outgoing commander, Curda, is the first Korean-American to reach the rank of brigadier general in the Army Reserve. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. He served in several commands in the Army civil affairs community. As a civilian, Curda holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Instructional Technology and is an educator and administrator in higher education.

Curda thanked his family, his Soldiers, Brooks and Ammerman for supporting him in his command. He recounted the success the command enjoyed during his tenure, while acknowledging the challenges the command faced to achieve those successes.

“This was the best job I could have asked for – what made it special was because of all of you,” Curda said. “It’s always about the people.”

The 351 CAC, based in Mountain View, California, is the commanding headquarters for more than a dozen U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs units located throughout the western United States. Civil Affairs has a unique role in military operations, international disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, as these Soldiers often coordinate between foreign civilian agencies and U.S. efforts abroad. The U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs forces are primarily composed of Army Reserve Soldiers, who bring their civilian expertise, as well as Army experience to operations throughout the world. The 351 CAC primarily supports operations throughout the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility.