Warm welcome home for Maj. Gen. Garrett

USARAK’s new boss and his family are familiar faces


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Incoming U.S. Army Alaska commander Maj. Gen. Michael Garrett, right, takes the U.S. Army Alaska flag from Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific, during a change of command ceremony on Thursday, May 17 on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

MATT TUNSETH

The newest commander of the U.S. Army in Alaska is no stranger to the 49th state.

Maj. Gen. Michael X. Garrett, who from 2006 to ‘08 served as first commander of the 4th Brigade Comand Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division at Fort Richardson, took command from Maj. Gen. Raymond Palumbo in a change of command ceremony held on Thursday, May 17 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

“It is absolutely fabulous to be back in Alaska,” Garrett said before the ceremony.

Garrett and his wife, Lorelei, are familiar faces in the Eagle River community. Their son, Mikey, played his Squirt hockey with the local Mustang Hockey Association Blue Devils, and plans to join the Eagle River High Wolves on the ice this winter.

Lorelei Garrett said she was overjoyed when she learned of her husband’s assignment.

“It really is like coming home,” she said.

Among those in attendance at the ceremony were Ken and Kathy Jesiel, whose son, Carter, will lace up the skates at ERHS alongside Mikey this winter. The Jesiels are good friends of the Garretts, and Kathy said she and Lorelai have been in constant contact since the family left Alaska.

“We’ve stayed in touch on Facebook…and Words with Friends,” she said with a laugh.

Maj. Gen. Garrett most recently served as Deputy Chief of Staff for United States Forces-Iraq during Operation New Dawn. He’s a 1984 graduate of Xavier University who was commissioned in the Army as a Second Lieutenant in the Infantry. Though he’s commanded troops at every level of the Army, he said he never dreamed he’d rise to the rank of general.

“This is certainly not something I had envisioned for myself,” he said.

Making the appointment even more special, he said, is the fact that he gets to return to the state that became his adopted home while stationed here.

“Of all the things about Alaska, the people and their support of our military is something I will truly enjoy,” he said.

Dignitaries in attendance at Thursday’s ceremony included Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, Eagle River Rep. Anna Fairclough, outgoing Anchorage School District Superintendent Carol Comeau, North Pole Mayor Doug Isaacson and Wayne Stolt, honorary consul of the Finnish embassy in Anchorage.

After two years of service, Maj. Gen. Palumbo has been promoted to Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Intelligence) for Joint Colaition and Warfighter Support at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

During his remarks, Maj. Gen. Garrett said Palumbo set the bar high during his two-year command.

“The shoes that I have to fill are big, but I will do my best,” Garrett said.

Also attending the ceremony was Lt. Gen. Francis Wiercinski, commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific. Wiercinski, who flew from Hawaii for the event, called Garrett “a caring and gifted leader,” and said Army brass at the Pentagon made the right choice in selecting the Garretts as the U.S. Army Alaska’s newest command family.

“You can’t but pick the Garretts,” he said. “They’re back home.”

 

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727.

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