Former 3rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo still didn’t know Friday what his next assignment would be when he passed the division command to Maj. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams in a change-of-command ceremony on Fort Stewart’s Cottrell Field.
Cucolo took command of the 3rd ID on July 14, 2008.
"Tony has never taken his eye off the ball (since)," U.S. Army Forces Commanding Gen. James Thurman said. Thurman described Cucolo as a "soldier’s general," referring to his "outstanding leadership," training troops to fight and win wars and the concern he has shown troops and their families.
"It is fitting that I become just the next picture on the wall of the (3rd ID) headquarters building," Cucolo said.
Cucolo came to Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield after a two-year tour as chief of Public Affairs for the Army at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
During his 33 months in command here, Cucolo deployed with the 3rd ID Headquarters to Iraq in October 2009, according to Fort Stewart public affairs. There, the former 3rd ID commander assumed command of U.S. Division-North and Task Force Marne. He was responsible for U.S. forces operating in seven Iraqi provinces north of Baghdad.
Thurman recounted how Task Force Marne under Cucolo’s command oversaw the start of the drawdown of troops last summer, advised and assisted the Iraqi military and supported Iraq’s first democratic national election in March 2010. The task force also helped build working relations between Iraqis and Kurds, according to Fort Stewart public affairs.
Cucolo became choked up during his farewell speech, saying he was proud to put on his uniform each morning with a blue-and-white striped Marne patch on the right sleeve and one on the left.
The general mentioned that his father also was a Dogface soldier, having fought in the Korean War. He also thanked his wife, Ginger, for her invaluable support, not only of him and their family, but of their greater Army family.
"She’s made 23 moves in 33 years," he said. "And you didn’t get to pick a single location," Cucolo told his wife. The couple has three grown children, Tony Allen, 26, Mackie, 24, and Abbie, 22.
Before passing the colors to Abrams, Cucolo stepped into a jeep and reviewed the 3rd ID’s brigade formations for the last time.
The 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s colors were cased, since the Vanguard brigade is deployed to Iraq until July.
Abrams, who was promoted from brigadier to major general about two hours before the change of command, made his introduction brief. He said he was thrilled to take on the challenges of leading the 3rd ID.
"I’ve been trying to get back to a division for four and a half years," he said.
Abrams most recently served as commanding general for the National Training Center and Fort Irwin in California.
In addition to the change of command between generals, former 3rd ID Command Sgt. Maj Jeffrey Ashmen passed the saber, a symbol of the senior enlisted advisor, to Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson. Ashmen is retiring from the Army after 31 years of service. Watson comes to the division from the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team.