FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii -- Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli passed command of U.S. Army Pacific from Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon to Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski during a change of command ceremony March 21 on historic Palm Circle on Fort Shafter, Honolulu.
Mixon, who will retire at the end of May, served as USARPAC commander since February 2008. He also commanded the 25th Infantry Division, headquartered at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and Task Force Lightening in northern Iraq during the surge.
Wiercinski said that standing before him "on this historic beautiful setting is a physical representation of what we really are. These commanders, command sergeants major, Soldiers and Marines represent the best of our nation. They are a generation of volunteers who stand up on that wall every day and say 'Not on my watch.'"
He added that those who live the Army values and embody the Soldier's Creed embrace the Warrior Ethos.
"The events of 9-11 -- our nine-plus years of sustained combat operations and, most recently, the tragic events endured by our friends, Soldiers and Families in Japan, remind us that we have chosen a profession that does not allow us the luxury of requesting being better prepared -- requiring 30 days notice to any catastrophic event," he said. "Our profession demands from our nation, commander in chief and our people that we be prepared today. We will ensure that your Army in the Pacific is prepared."
No stranger to USARPAC, Wiercinski served the commander of U.S. Army Japan and I Corps Forward from 2008-2010 and most recently was acting senior commander at Fort Campbell, Ky. He served as Mixon's deputy briefly in 2008 when Mixon commanded USARPAC and also as Mixon's deputy commander in Multinational Forces Iraq - North.
He added that "it is a great day to say I am a One Team Soldier. I realize as new commander I should have little to say and a lot to prove. But it is a subordinate commander's dream to work in this (Mixon's) kind of command environment where guidance is clear and intent is spot on -- and commanders are allowed to command. I am the benefactor of years of mentorship and watching two commanders who have given so much. Randy and Rhonda Mixon -- thank you so very much."
As USARPAC commander, Wiercinski is responsible for leading more than 62,000 active duty and Reserve component Soldiers, with more than 6,700 being deployed in overseas contingency operations.