New Commander of U.S. Army Alaska Talks About Army's ‘Transition’
Major General Michael Garrett addresses the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.
FAIRBANKS – With U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan winding down, the Army’s job in Alaska changes from preparing to send soldiers to the Middle East to a mission of doing more with less and focusing on the Asia Pacific region, said the incoming commander of the U.S. Army in Alaska.
Major General Michael Garrett took over as commander of U.S. Army Alaska in May, but he introduced himself Tuesday to Fairbanks business leaders at a Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce lunch at the Carlson Center, where he got a standing ovation when he first took the podium.
He alluded to a military-wide mandate to cut costs and a strategy of focusing on the Asia-Pacific region in his remarks.
“The Army is in a time of marked transition," he said. “A transition from fighting two conflicts in one region to being more responsive around the world.”
While he did not share many specifics on how the Army’s new strategy might affect Fort Wainwright, he said local troops can expect more focus on the fundamentals such as physical fitness, marksmanship and cold weather training. Colonel Brian Reed, the incoming commander of Fort Wainwright’s largest unit, highlighted similar goals early this summer when he took his command of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
Garrett singled out the importance of the Northern Warfare Training Center near Delta Junction.
“For us here in Alaska, taking a greater role in the Pacific gives us an opportunity to demonstrate our expertise in the Arctic,” he said. “Arctic specialty training is a must to win in extreme climates.”
Garrett’s most recent assignment was as deputy chief of staff for U.S. forces in Iraq. This is not his first time serving in Alaska. Between 2006 and 2008 he commanded Fort Richardson’s largest unit, the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. In fact, he’s been to the Carlson Center before, though last time he said he came to see his son’s Squirt hockey team “putting a whopping on” a Fairbanks team.
Garrett is again stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for his current command post. He said he was happy to move his family back to Alaska.
Contact Fairbanks Daily News-Miner staff writer Sam Friedman at 907-459-7545.