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New commandant takes charge at US Army War College

CARLISLE — The 113-year-old U.S. Army War College’s mission of developing strategic leadership is more critical than ever in an era of army budget cuts and ongoing threats worldwide, Maj. Gen. William Rapp said Friday morning during ceremonies installing him as the college’s 50th commandant.

“We’re being made smaller at a time when the world is as complex as it has ever been, and just as dangerous,” Rapp said.

Gen. John Campbell, Army chief of staff, agreed, and said development of adaptive leaders is one of Army leadership’s top priorities.

“Even though our budget, and potentially some of our training opportunities may decrease, the risks to our nation continue to grow and to become more complex,” Campbell said. “We need leaders that can adapt to this very unpredictable future.”

The federal budget sequestration of 2013 requires $500 million in cuts to military spending over 10 years, and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in March announced plans to reduce the Army’s active-duty force from 490,000 to 450,000 soldiers.

Campbell said Rapp is up to the task of leading a college that will train officers to meet the army’s future challenges. “You have my complete confidence, and if you apply the same energy and inspired leadership that you did in (other jobs) over the last couple of years, I know that you’ll excel here,” he said.

Rapp replaces Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo III, who served as commander since 2012. Rapp said he wanted to continue the initiatives that Cucolo began, such as building a reputation for the War College as a central leader of a “strategic renaissance so needed by our army after twelve years of non-stop war.” He also wants to continue attracting world-class faculty and students and maintaining a relevant curriculum, he said.

“Rapp is the best possible replacement I ever could have dreamed up for you,” Cucolo told the War College faculty and students in attendance.

The Army ceremonially recognized the change of command through the presentation of the War College colors, the performance of “Ruffles and Flourishes” by the 28th Infantry Division Band’s brass ensemble, and an artillery salute by the salute battery of the 1st Battalion, 109th Field Artillery (55th Brigade Combat Team).

A former War College student, Rapp also said he is excited to return to the Carlisle area, where the barracks have been welcomed by the community since they were first used to protect settlers in the 1700s.

“Thank you for the two-plus centuries of embracing this small Federal post as an integral part of the fabric that is the Carlisle community. It’s America’s hometown,” he said.

Rapp served as commander of the 555th Combat Engineer Group deployed in support of the 101st Airborne Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005, and was director of the Commander’s Initiatives Group in Iraq in 2007, according to information supplied by the War College.

In 2009, he was assigned as 72nd commandant of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy. He has also recently commanded National Command Element and National Support Element services in Afghanistan and served as chief of the Army’s legislative liaison.

Earlier in his career, he participated in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in the early 1990s and held army leadership roles in Germany and at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

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