As he looks back on his time commanding U.S. Army Central at its Sumter headquarters, the soon-to-be-general wants to leave it better than he found it.
Lt. Gen. Michael X. Garrett relinquished command of USARCENT on Friday so he can head to Fort …
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Lt. Gen. Michael X. Garrett relinquished command of USARCENT on Friday so he can head to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to take the helm of Army Forces Command, a promotion to general that comes with a fourth star for the Cleveland, Ohio, native.
Garrett's job at USARCENT since November 2015 had been to receive troops into the Central Command area of responsibility, which encompasses 20 countries in the Middle East, Northeast Africa and Central and South Asia, spanning 4 million square miles. In his new role, he will be leading the command that mans, trains and equips units in the contiguous United States for deployments abroad.
A couple days before the official transfer of command ceremony that passed the baton to Lt. Gen. Terry Ferrell, who came from U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, Garrett took some time to look back on his time at USARCENT and in Sumter, the changes he has seen and what he hopes for as he moves on to this next stage in his career.
The biggest change is a paradigm shift in the country's national defense theater of priorities.
"For two decades, we've been the military's main effort," Garrett said. "And if there's one of something, it goes to that main effort."
That national defense priority is changing from a focus on ISIS and terrorism threats in Iraq, Syria and the Middle East - that's where USARCENT comes in - to threats from growing power countries such as North Korea and those in the Pacific and Europe, Garrett said.
"That's a big change," he said.
What that means for USARCENT operations is a decrease in soldiers from about 1,200 now - 600 abroad and 600 in Sumter - to 535. Garrett said a partnership with the National Guard will fill some of that space in Kuwait, and a goal through the transition away from the Middle East for USARCENT will be to ensure an efficiency of resources.
"The interests that drove us to the Middle East are still there today," he said, such as the free flow of resources in the region and a stabilization of the global economy through those resources.
He said the Middle East is not an existential threat to our way of life, but countries such as China and North Korea may be and must be monitored due to nuclear weapons and "near-peer armies." Those fights against potential large-scale combat operations are more like the world saw 20 years ago as opposed to small insurgent terrorist groups.
Other "enduring priorities" Garrett has focused on and said USARCENT will continue to support include modernizing Army resources and equipment, maintaining partnerships and alliances and ensuring successful transitions of leadership within Army structures.
"The defeat of ISIS is imminent, but the ideology will take longer," Garrett said.
He also mentioned a focus on reducing Iran's nefarious role in the region and gave positive reviews of the mission in Afghanistan.
Garrett is now heading back to Fort Bragg for the third time but said Sumter stands out in his career, which started in 1984 when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry upon graduating from Xavier University.
His assignments include chief of staff of U.S. Central Command, commanding general of the U.S. Army Alaska and multiple joint operational tours, staff assignments and commands.
He said his successor, Ferrell, is in great shape to take over and "has a tremendous grasp of the issues and a feel for the region. I wanted to leave it better than I found it for him."
"I have never been more grateful for the way Sumter has welcomed us, from government to the local elected officials," Garrett said. "They have embraced us."
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