Army gets new commander south of Alps
VICENZA, Italy — Maj. Gen. Thomas Turner spent less time commanding the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) than anyone in more than three decades.
But his 17-month watch, which officially ended Friday, was arguably one of the busiest in that time.
Many of the troops under his command spent almost a year serving in Iraq after completing the first large-scale American combat jump of the 21st century. Turner himself spent months off the coast of Liberia leading an allied effort to bring peace to that war-torn country.
“When we needed seasoned and highly capable leadership, Tom was always ready,” said Gen. B.B. Bell, commander of U.S. Army Europe.
And Turner’s life won’t get any easier anytime soon.
He’s bound for Fort Campbell, Ky., to take over the reins of the 101st Airborne Division — a unit that’s also freshly back from duties in Iraq. And one that’s set to undergo a reorganization that might make it a model for the rest of the Army’s infantry.
If Turner needed any tips about his new command, his successor is probably a good person to turn to. Brig. Gen. Jason K. Kamiya served as the 101st assistant division commander for support before heading the Joint Readiness Training Center in his last assignment.
Bell, making the trip south of the Alps for the ceremony, said he’s known Kamiya for about a dozen years. He said he’s a good candidate to put in charge of a unit that’s one of the most deployed — and deployable — in the Army.
“In this war, SETAF and Jason Kamiya will make a difference,” Bell said.
Kamiya, who joined the Army in 1976, kept his remarks brief. He said he’s looking forward to taking command in a part of the world he’s never been assigned. He’s served at several posts in the States, Japan and Panama.
“I’m absolutely thrilled that after 27 years, the Army decided to send the Kamiya family to Europe,” he said.
He’ll soon get experience dealing with America’s chief former adversary in Europe: Russia. In a few weeks, some SETAF units will travel to Russia for an exercise with Russian forces.
Turner thanked his Italian hosts and the soldiers under his command and said he’s sure SETAF is ready for whatever missions it will face.
“The U.S. Army of the future exists and lives right here in the Vicenza military community. The soldiers that work and live here are flexible, adaptive and competent. They are soldiers that every day know, embrace and live the warrior ethos.”