Despite claps of thunder, jagged streaks of lightning flashing across gray skies and bullet-sized raindrops, Marne soldiers gathered Thursday afternoon for a Welcome Retreat ceremony.
The 3rd Infantry Division welcomed former chief of staff Col. Roger Cloutier as the new deputy commanding general of maneuver and Col. Leopoldo Quintas as the new chief of staff.
3rd ID commander Maj. Gen. Abe Abrams announced Cloutier would serve as the rear division commander during the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion’s scheduled fall deployment to Iraq. Cloutier had served six months as the division chief of staff. He previously commanded the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, which deployed from December 2009-December 2010 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
The Courier previously reported that Col. Christopher Hughes had been positioned to serve as the rear division commander. Hughes is the deputy commanding general of support.
Abrams joked that when he first met Cloutier at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., in October 2009, it was the earliest visit he’d ever made to a unit commander during a training exercise. The 1st HBCT trained at Fort Irwin before deploying to Iraq. Abrams said one of Cloutier’s troops "violated an NTC prime directive which is ‘Do not touch the role player.’ And that story is best told over an adult beverage."
Kidding aside, Abrams told those gathered not to be fooled by Cloutier’s tough appearance or fondness for professional wrestling. The new deputy commanding general of maneuver is "a renaissance man" who speaks French and is a "top negotiator," according to Abrams. The general praised Cloutier for easing his transition when he succeeded former 3rd ID commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo in mid-April.
Cloutier, Abrams said, had spent seven years in various leadership roles at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, and his knowledge of Army operations and familiarity with the 3rd ID and surrounding community would serve him well in his new role.
As for Quintas, Abrams said he had handpicked "the exact right colonel to be our division chief of staff."
Abrams described Quintas as having "a cool head under fire" and said his new chief of staff is resilient and possesses unique insights into how Army leaders operate. The general also touted Quintas’ advanced mathematical knowhow.
Quintas graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science degree and received a Master of Science degree in applied mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He also taught in the mathematical sciences department at the U.S. Military Academy.
Most recently, Quintas served as the chief for Dominant Maneuver with the G8 Force (Development) Directorate at the Pentagon. From June 2008-July 2010, he commanded the 16th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Knox, Ky.
On a lighter note, Abrams said Quintas has keen saber skills and can open a champagne bottle with one swipe.
From a rain-slick podium, Cloutier recalled his first day as a Dogface soldier, standing alongside his commanding general.
"I didn’t know the words to the song ("Dogface Soldier")," he said. "So I sang really low and mumbled the words."
Cloutier said he is proud to be part of the 3rd ID legacy and that the concept of sacrifice adopted by division troops makes them special.
"When I give, I give myself," he said, quoting poet Walt Whitman.
By returning to the 3rd ID and Fort Stewart, Quintas said his family has, in a sense, returned to their roots.
Quintas was a 3rd ID platoon leader when the division was stationed in Kitzingen, Germany, in the mid- to late 1980s. He later served in the 24th Infantry Division at Fort Stewart from 1991-1994, and his 19-year-old son, Sam, was born at Winn Army Community Hospital following Desert Storm. Quintas added that seven soldiers he once served with are memorialized on Warriors Walk.
Quintas said it was an honor to serve the 3rd ID and he pledged to do his utmost for the division. He commented that the nation and its Army face difficult challenges and he believes the 3rd ID will lead the effort in meeting those challenges.