To fully integrate himself into his new job, Brig. Tim Lai incorporated his first “y’all” into his first remarks to the Fort Hood community last week.
The British army officer’s attempt was met with good-intentioned laughter from the gathering of Fort Hood and community leaders who welcomed him to the “Great Place” during a ceremony Thursday morning.
He described the welcome as unlike any other he’d received back home with the British army.
“I confess to being slightly overwhelmed. (My wife) Jenni and I have never had so much fuss made over us,” he said.
Lai, along with his wife and their two children, joins Fort Hood as the III Corps deputy commander for support. The rank of brigadier in the British army is equivalent to brigadier general in the U.S. Army.
This is the first time a British officer has held this position as part of the U.S. military’s partnerships with its allies. A similar partnership with the Canadian military lasted about 15 years and ended in April 2013.
“Like your Canadian predecessors you represent your nation’s commitment to the shared values and unmistakable bond of friendship between our nations,” said Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, commander of III Corps and Fort Hood.
Lai attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and commissioned into the Army Air Corps in 1986. He’s served in command at the platoon, company and battalion level, and his deployments include Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.
He described the opportunity to work with the American Army as humbling.
“I cannot express my delight,” he said. “I’m extremely happy to be the first.”
He said the exchange program is important to maintaining the partnerships developed during past 12 years of war.
Britain deployed 46,000 troops for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. In Afghanistan, 450 British service members paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“The habitual familiarity we’ve gained over 13 years together with the lessons that we’ve learned are perishable commodities,” Lai said. “In short, if we don’t work at preserving what we’ve built ... we risk being unprepared for the next time.”