By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch departed III Corps and Fort Hood just more than a year after taking command.

Lynch announced June 5 he would leave Central Texas, which was his first duty station after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy. He replaced Gen. Raymond Odierno on July 18, 2008, who then took over from Gen. David Petraeus as the top commander in Iraq.

Lynch took command five months after Odierno brought the corps back from Iraq. Lynch was fresh from Iraq himself, returning June 2 to Fort Stewart with the 3rd Infantry Division.

It was announced mid-June that Lynch was leaving in the fall for Installation Management Command, or IMCOM, to serve as assistant chief of staff for installation management.

Lynch's replacement, Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, was named that same day by Gates. Cone, who previously served as a brigade commander in the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, served as special assistant to the commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va. He served at Fort Hood with Lynch when the two were lieutenants.

Cone took over III Corps and Fort Hood Sept. 16. It was the fourth time Cone followed Lynch at an assignment.

The challenge at the time for Cone was preparing the corps to deploy to Iraq just three months after taking command. His predecessor, Lynch, said the generals worked together on a detailed plan that led to an "unbelievably seamless" transition.

Lynch said he wanted to lead III Corps into battle. Was he disappointed? He'd kid himself and everyone else if he said he wasn't, he admitted in September.

Aside from family separations and memorial services, "every soldier worth his salt would prefer to be deployed," he said. "As would this soldier."

Cone brings Coleman; Ciotola says goodbye

Soon after his next position was revealed, Lynch announced that Command Sgt. Maj. Neil Ciotola, III Corps and Fort Hood senior noncommissioned officer, would go with him to IMCOM.

Ciotola was the senior noncommissioned officer at Fort Hood and III Corps four years, previously serving with the 1st Cavalry Division.

His presence and reputation at Fort Hood was well-known and he was regarded by many leaders as the best noncommissioned officer in the U.S. Army.

Ciotola has been called a legend in the Noncommissioned Officer Corps.

"I've never seen a human being that cares more, is more compassionate, is more focused, is more articulate than Neil Ciotola," Lynch said of his enlisted counterpart.

Ciotola is known for his passion for those in uniform, which is why he does what he does, Lynch said.

"It's a love for soldiers," he added. "It's an unmitigated loved for soldiers and their families."

Ciotola is the best noncommissioned officer in the Army, said Col. Reginald Allen, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment commander, and he should be the sergeant major of the Army.

"He has set the perfect example of NCO leadership for the corps and our Army: mentor, disciplinarian, teacher and, above all, friend," Allen said. "During my time as the corps G3 he was always available to provide the kind of sage wisdom that only someone totally immersed in our profession of arms could provide."

With Ciotola departing, the big question was who Cone would choose.

Cone deployed to Afghanistan in June 2007 where he assumed command of the Combined Security Transition Command - where he was responsible for the development of the Afghan army and police - for 18 months. It was there he met Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur Coleman Jr., the man he later asked to serve as III Corps and Fort Hood senior noncommissioned officer.

Coleman returned from Afghanistan - where he served as senior noncommissioned officer of Command Security Transition Command-Afghanistan - shortly before taking his new position at Fort Hood. He took the job knowing he would deploy to Iraq in early 2010 with III Corps, Lynch said in late August.

Coleman's Army career began in 1978 and he has served as the senior noncommissioned officer for the 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Joint Readiness Training Center, Operations Group, Fort Polk, La.; and 82nd Airborne Division Rear Detachment, Fort Bragg, N.C.

He completed Airborne, Ranger, Pathfinder, Jumpmaster and Air Assault schools, and Korean Ranger and Australian Airborne schools.

Others to join the III Corps and Fort Hood command group in 2009 were Brig. Gen. William Grimsley, deputy commander; Brig. Gen. John G. Rossi, deputy commander of fires; and Brig. Gen. Joseph DiSalvo, III Corps chief of staff.

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