III Corps has played an important role in the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and now the fight against ISIS. Can you talk a bit about how a corps headquarters participates in these missions?
III Corps is leading Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, the military component of the global Coalition of 71 nations and 4 international organizations committed to defeating ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria. In addition to the Army, the Navy, Air Force and Marines are well represented in this fight. Together, we will continue to work towards our one mission — to defeat ISIS. While the Phantom Corps is currently leading the Coalition, this is truly a team effort.
In the current fight against ISIS, can you discuss the mission and how it is progressing?
This fight we’re in now is unique in that we, the Coalition, are enabling our partner forces as we work by, with, and through incredibly patriotic and determined Iraqi and Syrian warriors to defeat ISIS … and its efficacy is undeniable. In 2014, ISIS seemed unstoppable. ISIS controlled vast swaths of territory across Iraq and Syria, the size of Virginia, and exerted its barbaric control over seven million civilians. However, today, as ISIS’ so-called Caliphate continues to crumble, life is beginning to stabilize throughout liberated areas. Neighborhoods are recovering, schools are reopening and markets are bustling. Though there is still much work to be done, through our collective efforts with our partners, ISIS will be defeated. We will continue to work by, with, and through our partners to achieve this objective for the innocent civilians of Iraq and Syria, our nations and all mankind.
How has the mission evolved since you arrived in theater?
When III Corps assumed the OIR mission on Sept. 5 2017, ISIS still controlled a large amount of physical terrain both in Iraq and Syria, and millions of civilians were subjugated to its perverse reign of terror. Thus, working by, with and through our Iraqi and Syrian partners, the fight was for the liberation of the people oppressed by a brutal organization. This fight was block-by-block, room-by-room, in some of the toughest conditions the world has ever seen. It was a painstaking process, and our partners shed significant blood to liberate their people.
Now, as ISIS’ so-called Caliphate continues to crumble, this Coalition is faced with a new problem set. Since Prime Minister Abadi’s declaration of Iraq’s total liberation in December 2017, Iraqis are focused on winning the peace and establishing a stable and secure future for their country. Although winning the peace is often harder than winning the war, this Coalition continues to support Iraq as part of a whole-of-government effort to enable stabilization and prevent the reemergence of ISIS.
What will a successful end to this deployment look like?
Our Iraqi and Syrian partners have achieved tremendous success, and I have no doubt that this coalition’s efforts will continue to set the conditions to ensure a bright future of stability, security and opportunity. But, I want to be clear that now is not the time for us to let up. At Iraq’s invitation, the Coalition continues to support the Iraqi Security Forces through specialized training, further building on their capability and confidence as a battle-tested fighting force. Training will focus on intelligence-based policing, logistics and other essential capabilities to help ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS.
What is next for III Corps after this deployment?
The Phantom Corps has a long and storied history of fighting against tyranny and oppression, and standing for freedom. From the Argonne forest, to the Rhine River, and to the streets of Baghdad and Kabul, when our nation calls, they call for America’s Hammer. This deployment marks the eighth time in history that the III Armored Corps has answered that call. If history is any indicator of the future, the Phantom Corps will undoubtedly be called on once again to serve on the frontlines of freedom. Thus, once we come home to Fort Hood, we will enjoy some much needed time with our Families, and then resume training so that the next time America calls, this Corps is ready.
How do you see a storied headquarters like the Phantom Corps fitting into the role of the future of the Army?
The Phantom Corps will remain responsible for bringing the power of our nation to foreign lands thousands of miles away to face our enemies, ranging from insurgents to pseudo-state terrorist groups, to near-peer competitors. We will continue to be expected to fight and win, wherever and whenever our nation calls. And, I can assure you of one thing — we will be ready.
The Phantom Corps will continue to remind folks around the world that we stand for something. That our uniform represents two things — and that’s “hope and fear.” It’s hope for the downtrodden, the oppressed, those people that need a better path. And it’s fear to our enemies because they know we will prevail. It is incumbent upon us to tell the story, to explain why we are America’s Hammer, to show why our commitment is to each other and to our nation, to show why it matters, to make it matter, and to help people understand that our sacrifices are for the good of our Nation.
Looking back at III Corps’ history, is there any moment in time that you often reflect upon or look back to for inspiration? Or maybe a moment of pride for now being a part of that history?
History is tremendously important to me. In fact, the walls of my office are covered in photos because they keep me in touch with my own history. I have many personal heroes — those individuals who have exhibited tenacity, the fixed resolve not to quit, in the face of colossal challenges. Not only does tenacity win the day, but tenacity wins throughout history. My personal heroes prove that anyone can overcome just about anything, and that there is no substitute for camaraderie.
You also have a personal history with III Corps. When you stepped into the role of commander, what did it mean for you? Growing up, is this what you imagined for yourself or the goal you set?
I’m a son of the U.S. Army — the greatest fighting force ever assembled. I serve for my wife and kids, my parents, my extended family, and all those that can’t because somebody has got to do it. I am amazingly touched that every time I hear a young man or a woman explain why it is they joined this great institution. For me, when I get up and put on this uniform I feel like Superman. I do. I truly believe what I said, that this uniform means two things around this globe. I serve because somebody has to, and I am proud to be that somebody.
My first words upon assuming command of the Phantom Corps were simple — “It’s great to be home.” You see, Fort Hood is my hometown. But, I’ll be honest. While I never aspired or thought I would be the III Corps Commander, it is truly an honor to be leading this great organization. I am immensely privileged to serve alongside the very best of our nation — America’s sons and daughters.