FORT JACKSON, SC — Brig. Gen. Bradley A. Becker, 49, took over the reins as commanding general of Fort Jackson Tuesday morning.
The pomp and circumstance-filled ceremony was held at Victory Field outside the officer’s club on a cool, clear morning and drew a crowd of more than 200, including University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides and civilian liaison to the Army Ike McLeese, who also is president and CEO of the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce.
Becker, a more than 25-year veteran, took command from outgoing interim commander Brig. Gen. Peggy C. Combs. Presiding over the ceremony was Major Gen. Bradley May, a former Fort Jackson commander who is now deputy commanding general, Initial Military Training Center of Excellence, Fort Eustis, Va.
“I can’t think of any other more important responsibility, other than leading soldiers in combat, than transforming volunteers into soldiers and developing our future leaders,” said Becker, who previously was assistant deputy director for Joint Training, J-7, Joint Staff, in Suffolk, Va. He is Fort Jackson’s 46th commander.
Becker takes over the post at a challenging time for the military, amid sharp budget cuts and force reductions, coming on the heels of more than a decade of war.
“We’ll let our senior leaders worry about how we’re going to make all that work with budget cuts, sequestration, furloughs and things that come down the road. But down at the soldier level, it’s our responsibility to see that they don’t see that as an issue and they can focus on training and doing their jobs and that they have what they need to do that,” he said.
Becker doesn’t expect the budget cuts to threaten the mission at Fort Jackson, the military’s largest training base.
“I don’t know how we’ll be impacted… I don’t think it will have a significant impact on the numbers, but I’ll have to sit down with staff and see,” he said.
The Army also faces challenges with increasing complaints of sexual harassment, which Becker said will not be tolerated.
“That is just not acceptable. It degrades the mission. It impacts the entire unit, and to the victims, it’s absolutely unacceptable. It’s something that is reality. You’ve got to deal with it,” he said.
Fort Jackson’s previous commander, Brig. Gen. Bryan Roberts, left in a sex scandal a little over a year after taking command. He was removed from the fort’s top post in July after allegations of misconduct, including adultery and a physical altercation. The misconduct did not involve sexual assault or harassment. But, the Army said, it was “a breach of order and discipline that violated standards of the Army profession.”
Becker, whose awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal and Combat Action Badge, has been deployed to Iraq three times and also served overseas in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Storm, in Germany and in Korea.
“General Brad Becker is an exceptional leader who will lead Fort Jackson with distinction. He and his wife Sherri will be great teammates with our community partners in the greater Columbia area. We are fortunate that our Army selected this fantastic Army Family,” Combs said in a release. Combs will return to her position as the Commandant of the United States Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Becker, 49, and his wife, Sherri, are from Sacramento, Calif., where they met in a driver’s ed class in high school. They have two sons, Derek, 22, a student at Washington State University at Pullman, and Andrew, 18, who attends Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.