Maj. Gen. John Batiste unexpectedly named deputy commander of V Corps

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the V Corps commander, right, and Maj. Gen. John Batiste, then the 1st Infantry Division commander, greet guests at a welcome home celebration for 1st ID troops last month in Kitzingen, Germany. Batiste has been named V Corps deputy commander.


Pentagon has two people sharing same post for first time


HEIDELBERG — Just three weeks after naming one deputy commander for V Corps, the Pentagon has unexpectedly appointed a second.

Maj. Gen. John Batiste, outgoing commander of the 1st Infantry Division, was named V Corps deputy commander on Friday. Batiste now holds the same title as Brig. Gen. Daniel Hahn, who assumed his position on April 6.

No mention was made then that Hahn would be joined by Batiste in what was previously a one-person position.

What Batiste’s duties will be and what his appointment signified are unclear. V Corps leaders Saturday were saying little about his new position.

“Maj. Gen. Batiste is obviously very well qualified. We look forward to him joining the corps team,” V Corps spokesman Brian McNerney said. “He knows the area of operations we’re going to.”

V Corps’ current commanding general, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, is due for reassignment or retirement in the next few months. Sanchez took command of the corps following the U.S. military’s march into Baghdad about two years ago and led it through operations in Iraq.

During Sanchez’s command in Iraq, the Army was rocked by the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. Sanchez was recently cleared of culpability by an Army Inspector General report.

But at a press conference last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declined to say what was next for Sanchez. “Everyone does not go on to another post; it gets tight at the top,” Rumsfeld said.

“And he is clearly a person in an important position at the present time, has been in the past, and he’s a person who would be considered in the future.”

Batiste, 52, took the 1st ID to Iraq in February 2004, and headed Task Force Danger, a 22,000-troop force that included National Guard and 25th Infantry Division units as well as the Big Red One’s three Germany-based brigades. The task force was credited with building new infrastructure while fighting an increasingly dangerous insurgency and improving its own bases from its headquarters in Tikrit. The 1st ID’s tour wrapped up supervising the successful Iraqi elections.

V Corps’ headquarters will be returning to Iraq, likely in December or January, McNerney said, after an estimated half of the corps’ units deploy there.

But that leaves half of the corps in Germany, at least for now. Army transformation plans call for one of the corps’ units — the 1st ID — to relocate to the United States beginning next year, with the 1st Armored Division following about two years later, after finishing an upcoming Iraq deployment.

Batiste is being replaced in the 1st ID by Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hunzeker. That appointment was announced on April 20. At that time Batiste’s new assignment was not disclosed.

Batiste was spending time with his family and not available for comment Saturday, said Maj. Bill Coppernoll, a 1st ID spokesman.

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