Although threatening weather forced the event indoors into the main post chapel Friday, Fort Stewart gave its two deputy division commanders a welcome that was both ceremonial and warm.
Except that the cannon of the saluting battery would not fit inside the chapel — large though it is — all the ritual of Army ceremony were observed for Brig. Gen. Patrick Donahue II and Col. Thomas Vandal.
Roses were presented to wives, guns boomed outside the chapel in salute, the band played ruffles and flourishes and the “General’s March,” and a souvenir shell casing was presented.
Third Infantry Division and Fort Stewart commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo welcomed numerous dignitaries, including soldiers from Fort Benning and Hunter Army Airfield, and said, “The wives are the true guests of honor here.”
He praised Maureen Donahue and Doreen Vandal and said, “I am doing what I can to recommend them for sainthood.”
Complimenting both officers, Cucolo said they had seen and listened to the decision makers at the highest levels of the military and of the nation. Referring to the job experience of both men, Cucolo said, “the two colonels were hand-selected by the chief and vice chief” of Army staff.
With Donahue and Vandal in place, Cucolo said, “The team is set. The rucksacks are being shouldered again. We are ready for the long march.”
The general explained that tradition labeled one deputy for maneuver and one for support, but “in 2008 M and S don’t matter. In the complex battlefields we have today, we may face a need for multiple headquarters.”
Close observers had spotted a flag with four gold stars — symbolic of the Army’s highest rank — at the front of the chapel with the two-star flag of Cucolo and the one-star flag of Donahue. There are only about a dozen four-star generals on the Army and none were recognizable at Friday’s ceremony.
Cucolo solved that mystery when he deferred the honors due him to a retired four-star, Gen. Arthur Brown. He credited Brown with much of the work developing and fielding weapons systems, which are commonplace today, such as the M1 tank, and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.