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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Shafter-based commander steps down

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

FORT SHAFTER — Lt. Gen. E.P. Smith, whose 35-year Army career early on included duty as a platoon leader in Vietnam, yesterday stepped down as commander of the 36,000 soldiers and civilians of U.S. Army Pacific.

Sgt. Major Jackie L. Cunningham, middle, of U.S. Army Pacific, yesterday escorted both the outgoing commander, Lt. Gen. E.P. Smith, right, and the new commander, Lt. Gen. James L. Campbell, left, on an inspection of troops during change of command ceremonies ceremonies. Campbell has officially assumed command of U.S. Army Pacific.

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He was replaced by Lt. Gen. James L. Campbell, who had been acting commander since Sept. 21.

Smith, 57, was lauded by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki and Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, the head of Pacific Command, during a change of command ceremony attended by several hundred people.

Those in attendance at the Palm Circle ceremony included the three members of Hawai'i's Congressional delegation, other top U.S. military officials, and dignitaries from more than eight countries.

Represented by soldiers carrying unit flags were U.S. Army Pacific subordinate elements including the 25th Infantry Division (Light); U.S. Army Garrison, Hawai'i; U.S. Army Alaska; U.S. Army Japan; 9th Regional Support Command; 196th Infantry Brigade; U.S. Army, Military Police Brigade, Hawai'i; and 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade.

"You've been a good team, here at home, and on the road," Smith told members of his command, which is based out of Fort Shafter. "We stayed ready."

Shinseki credited Smith with increasing the momentum of the Army's transformation to a lighter, faster fighting force, and for his knowledge of joint operations. Smith took over command of U.S. Army Pacific on Oct. 20, 1998.

The Army transformation includes plans for Pacific-focused "Stryker" brigades of eight-wheeled armored vehicles at Schofield Barracks and at bases in Alaska and Washington state that can be deployed quickly to the battlefield.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki yesterday praised Smith's accomplishments and welcomed Campbell to his new post.

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"It was his (Smith's) assessment of the Army's duty to better serve the (Pacific Command) that led to our focusing Stryker brigades in the Pacific," Shinseki said.

Shinseki said that compassion is one of Smith's strengths, and "at the core, Ed's focus has always been on soldiers, because then as now, he knows they bear the heaviest burden in close battle."

A West Point graduate, Smith served in Vietnam in 1968. That year, 14,000 Americans were killed, and more than 80,000 were wounded — the greatest loss for a single year, Shinseki said.

"That environment indelibly stamped our generation's leaders," Shinseki said, adding that the lesson learned was "you either have it right from the outset or we pay dearly to learn our lesson under fire."

Smith also served as the Joint Rear Area Coordinator for military homeland defense in Hawai'i. After Sept. 11, 2001, more than 30 exercises were conducted with emergency response teams.

"(The Pacific) is a really busy place, and U.S. Army Pacific is serving a number of crucial roles in our global war on terrorism, in the security of our homeland, in new thought and innovations, and in critical exercises," Fargo said. "Ed Smith makes no secret that trained and ready forces are his top priority."

Campbell, who commanded the 10th Mountain Division (Light) at Fort Drum, N.Y., was expected to take over U.S. Army Pacific last fall, but Sept. 11 delayed the transition.

Shinseki called Campbell, 53, a "seasoned operator, a tough war fighter and an experienced peacekeeper."

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.