Maj. Gen. Mike Murray took command of the 3rd Infantry Division during a change of command ceremony Friday morning on Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field.
Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps, presided over the ceremony in which Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams turned over command of the Marne Division to Murray. Special guests included retired Gen. John Hendrix; Maj. Gen. Kendall Penn, deputy commanding general, 1st U.S. Army; Mayor Jim Thomas of Hinesville; and Mayor Mary Warnell of Pembroke. Also present was Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Andrews, former 3rd ID command sergeant major and former armored personnel carrier driver for 2nd Lt. Robert Abrams.
Anderson noted that Abrams and Murray began their military careers by serving together during Ranger School in 1982 and later as 1st Cavalry Division brigade combat team commanders in Iraq in 2004.
Abrams began his career as an armor officer after graduating from the U.S. Army Military Academy, and Murray began his career as an infantry officer after graduating from Ohio State University. Both soldiers began their careers 31 years ago.
Anderson told guests he hoped they appreciated the North Carolina sunshine he brought with him from Fort Bragg. He then commended Abrams for his leadership of the Marne Division during a 12-month combat tour in Afghanistan, where he commanded Regional Command-South. He thanked Abrams and his wife Connie for all they did for the 3rd ID. He then said Murray is equally qualified to take command of the 3rd ID, calling him a “tested and seasoned officer.”
“Rock of the Marne!” Anderson said as he concluded his remarks. “Now I want to say something you probably don’t hear a lot around here. Airborne, all the way!”
Several airborne and Ranger-qualified soldiers responded from the reviewing stands with a thundering “Airborne!”
A series of ceremonies made up the day’s big ceremony, including a last “inspection of troops” by the outgoing commander. Anderson, Abrams and Murray rode in the back of a Humvee, holding onto the roll bar as the vehicle drove slowly around the formation of soldiers representing the entire 3rd ID.
Following the inspection of troops, the colors were brought forward in preparation for the change of command. Another ceremony first had to take place, however. Abrams and 3rd ID Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson first uncased the division’s colors, indicating the command group is home. Though all 3rd ID units were represented on the field, 14 unit colors remained cased, indicating those units — which represent about 5,000 soldiers — still are deployed.
“It is with bittersweet emotion that I stand here to give this final address,” Abrams told his former soldiers. “You are a warrior breed. ... When people ask me, ‘Gen. Abrams, what are your credentials?’ I tell them, ‘These are my credentials.’”
He gestured at the formation of Dogface soldiers in front of him and said with a laugh that if a “zombie apocalypse” hits earth, he is confident the Marne Division would save the world. During a press interview later, he was teased some about the zombie joke but, on a serious note, he said it was hard to look out at the formation of his former soldiers and not be inspired.
Abrams expressed confidence in Murray and said he knows the Marne Division is in good hands.
Murray and his wife later met with news media at Club Stewart. Jane Murray, who wore a crystal broach that said “HOOAH,” said she wants soldiers and their spouses to know it is OK if they have trouble dealing with deployments or reintegration after returning. She said they need to know it is OK to ask for help.
Murray, who isn’t planning to change much during his first 60-90 days, said he knows Abrams left him with a great group of officers, noncommissioned officers and soldiers.
“I’ve known Abe Abrams since 1982, so I knew the division would be in great shape,” Murray said. “This division has one of the finest reputations in the United States Army. ... As I said in my speech, wherever we go in the Army, it’s an exception for people to be happy where they are, but the support (from the community) here at Fort Stewart is absolutely phenomenal.”