As the crowd gathered and took their seats for the XVIII Airborne Corps Change of Command Ceremony on Friday, the 82nd Airborne Division Band played the theme tunes from Game of Thrones and the A-Team.
The ceremony took place at the Hercules Physical Fitness Center and was hosted by Gen. Robert B. Abrams, the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command.
Leaders from Fort Bragg, the XVIII Abn. Corps’ extended footprint and the Fayetteville community were in attendance to see the passing of responsibility for “America’s Contingency Corps.”
Prior to the change of command Abrams presented awards to Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, the outgoing XVIII Abn. Corps commander, and his wife, Melissa.
Townsend was honored with the Distinguished Service Medal and his wife, Melissa, was awarded the Secretary of the Army Public Service Award.
Townsend ceremoniously passed the unit colors to Abrams who in turn passed them and the command of the “Sky Dragons” to newly promoted, Lt. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera.
Abrams spoke to attendees about the storied history of the Corps and the leadership of both the outgoing and incoming Corps commanders.
Abrams described the Corps’ involvement in humanitarian aid in response to three hurricanes this past fall and lauded successes in overseas campaigns.
Leading a 73-nation combined joint task force for Operation Inherent Resolve,the Corps worked by, with and through local partners to liberate almost 150 square kilometers of territory in Iraq and Syria enabling almost 2 million displaced people to return to their homes, said Abrams.
Abrams described Townsend as leading from the front and by example, attributing his leadership as a decisive factor in the liberation of Mosul and suppression of the Islamic State.
“I want to assure all of you that it was his personal leadership that kept the coalition together and inspired the partner force to achieve something that two years earlier was nothing more than a dream,” said Abrams.
Townsend is set to be promoted to four-star general and take command of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Townsend began his army career here at Fort Bragg as a 2nd Lt. with 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Abn. Div., and recently completed his last airborne jump with his former unit almost 35 years later.
Paraphrasing a World War II airborne leader he explained, he does not like to jump out of airplanes, but he does like to be around the soldiers that do.
Townsend spoke of his gratitude for the experiences, Soldiers and people he has met during his command.
“It’s been the privilege of my life to stand in the phalanx alongside of all of you, I and all of America are counting on you to stay ready and I know you will,” closed Townsend.
LaCamera, the XVIII Abn. Corps’ new commanding general, hails from Westwood, Mass., and was commissioned from the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1985.
LaCamera has commanded at the company level twice, the battalion level twice, and at the regimental and the division levels.
Abrams described LaCamera as bringing an unprecedented breadth and depth of operational strength to the job.
Townsend spoke highly of his successor and his wife Theresa during the event.
“You are exactly the right command team at exactly the right time,” he said.
When asked about the XVIII Abn. Corps future, LaCamera explained that the Corps would continue on as before; ready to go at moments notice.
“The fundamentals will never change, the conditions might,” he explained.
LaCamera spoke of the importance of the community and their contribution to the lethality and readiness of XVIII Abn. Corps through their support of its Soldiers and Families.
“We can’t do it with out them,” he said. ”It’s the shaft (of the spear) that really provides the punching power, the killing power, and that comes from the community and everybody else… can’t do it without them,” said LaCamera.