Thursday, November 10, 2005

New TRADOC commander says future of Armor is bright

Here's the story I did after the interview with TRADOC's new top-dog, Gen. William Wallace. For the record, the general said the word "hell" at one point during the interview, but I was not allowed to include it in the final story.

Wallace, new TRADOC commander,
an armor officer who wanted to fly

By SPC. IAN BOUDREAU/Turret staff writer

For Gen. William Wallace, who recently assumed command of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, coming to Fort Knox last week to officiate the retirement ceremony of former Chief of Armor Maj. Gen. Terry Tucker was a homecoming of sorts.

Wallace, who assumed command of TRADOC Oct. 13, graduated from Louisville's Eastern High School in 1965, and subsequently attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

Wallace's 36-year Army career has brought him back to Fort Knox several times -- for the Armor Officer Basic and Advanced courses, and also for an assignment as a major at the former Directorate of Combat Development, Studies Division, in 1978.

Since then, Wallace said, he's seen Fort Knox improve in many ways.

"The most dramatic change has been in the quality of training," he said. "Boudinot Hall and Gaffey Hall -- the buildings haven't changed a lot, but what's inside of them has."

Married with two children, Wallace met his wife, the former Sharon Corbin, during ninth grade at Eastern, he said. Their daughter, Tara, 30, lives in southern California with her three children, while their son, Todd, 27, lives in New Orleans.

Wallace said his wife's family still lives in the Louisville area.

"I'm a University of Louisville fan and I'm a University of Kentucky fan, which I know is hard to be," he said. "I sort of root for Louisville during the football season and Kentucky during the basketball season. I go with whoever has a chance to win.

"But when Louisville and Kentucky play every year in December, I always root for Louisville," he added. "Not because I'm for Louisville all that much, but because my mother-in-law is such a dyed-in-the-wool Kentucky fan that I like to get under her skin."

Wallace began his career as an armor officer for what some might think is a surprising motive: he wanted to fly helicopters.

"Back in '69, when I was commissioned, there was no aviation branch," he said. "It seemed to me that armor and aviation sort of went together.

"Then I subsequently flunked out of flight school, went to Vietnam, and became an Armor adviser in an infantry unit. So I guess I've done okay for a flight school dropout."

Wallace said he's excited about his new role as commander of TRADOC.

"I'm excited," he said, "I'm kind of apprehensive about the job. I keep looking at myself in the mirror every morning wondering who it is with the four stars on his shoulders looking back. I hope I never outgrow that feeling."

There will be challenges, to be sure, he said, including working with the command's budget and dealing with personnel issues, plus dealing with the ongoing war on terrorism.

"I think regardless of where you are in TRADOC, whether you're at Fort Knox or Fort Benning or Fort Sill," he said, "you've got a major role to play in that war. The fact of the matter is that victory starts in TRADOC. Victory starts at Fort Knox and Fort Benning and Fort Sill; it's where the foundation of our Army is built.

"We have an obligation to make that foundation as firm and solid as we can for the fight that we're currently in, but we also have to be concerned about the victory that we're going to fight and win five and 10 and 12 years from now.

"That's what the nation expects from us, and that's what we owe to the nation," he said.

For the Armor Branch, Wallace said the future is bright.

"There's a lot of hand-wringing, a lot of rock-kicking going on," he said. "But there's a place for heavy forces, there's a place for medium-weight forces, and there's a place for light forces. We've got to strike the right balance.

"The fact of the matter is, the spirit of armor, the spirit of cavalry is going to be with us forever. It's a legacy that we've got to carry forward -- there's a heritage there, regardless of what our formations look like."

Wallace will work at TRADOC headquarters, located at Fort Monroe, Va.


Open Post at the Mudville Gazette.
Here's another shot at a Mudville Gazette Open Post.