Maj. Gen. James C. McConville officially assumed command of Fort Campbell and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in a formal ceremony Friday.
McConville relieves Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, who served as commander for two years. Campbell will take a position in the Pentagon, where he will be the deputy chief of staff of operations. He will also head the transition team for Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff.
“Whether we honor the incoming or outgoing commander, it’s not about us,” Campbell told the audience. “It’s about the soldiers who are on this field; it’s about the unit.
“To the soldiers, I’ve been inspired each day by your noble sacrifice, your heroism, your patriotic commitment, your loyalty, your band of brothers — the less than one-half of 1 percent of Americans who defend the freedoms that we, as Americans, enjoy.”
The ceremony at Fort Campbell’s Division Parade took place in front of 15,000 soldiers. Almost 7,000 Fort Campbell soldiers remain deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.
Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg presided at the ceremony.
Gov. Steve Beshear, who visited Fort Campbell troops in a Middle East visit last week, attended the ceremony. Also present were Secretary of the Army John McHugh and two former division commanders who are retired, Richard Cody, and William Kernan.
Members of Campbell’s U.S. Military Academy Class of 1979 were on hand for the ceremony.
A native of Quincy, Mass., he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and was commissioned as an Army infantry officer in 1981.
Command assignments include an air cavalry troop in the 7th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, Calif., an air cavalry squadron in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and an air cavalry brigade in the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas.
He commanded the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry in Iraq 2004-05. He was deputy commanding general for the 101st Airborne Division’s Regional Command East in Afghanistan 2008-09.
McConville and his wife, Maria, have three children: Michael, 22, Jessica, 20, and Ryan, 18.
McConville becomes the 44th division commander of the 101st since August 1942.
“Today, we are celebrating the achievements of the extraordinary men and women standing on the field before us,” McConville said. “Gen. Campbell and his wife, Ann, and have left me and (McConville’s wife) Maria a wonderful division and a smooth transition. He is such a class act and a tough act to follow.”
Dozens of veterans from previous wars also participated in the ceremony, including retired Command Sgt. Maj. Dayton Herrington. The 80-year-old, but still spry veteran of the Korean War and the Vietnam War, marched out in front of a group of veterans who represent the living history of the storied division.
“I retired here after 30 years and I did not want to get out,” he said. “If they offered me any job, I would like to be a first sergeant again.”
The change of command is the culmination of the Week of the Eagles celebration that included games, a combatives tournament, memorials and parachute demonstrations.
Sgt. Anthony Creech, of Florence, and Spc. Scott Bohdan, of Minneapolis, both 25, were also honored during the ceremony as the division’s respective noncommissioned officer of the year and soldier of the year.
“It’s the most famous division in the entire world, so to be chosen as soldier of the year, it’s a great honor,” Bohdan said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
David Snow is the editor of The Eagle Post. Reach him at 270-887-3295 or firstname.lastname@example.org.