Lt. Gen. (Promotable) J. D. Thurman responds to a question by Fayetteville Observer military editor Henry Cuningham, during a June 2, 2010 interview at U.S. Army Forces Command headquarters, Fort McPherson, Ga.
U.S. Army photo by Jim Hinnant
Thurman discusses Forces Command move to Bragg
J.D. Thurman will be promoted to four-star general and become commander of Forces Command in ceremonies at Fort McPherson today.
By Henry Cuningham
ATLANTA – Lt. Gen. J.D. Thurman draws on his days as a linebacker on football teams while growing up in southern Oklahoma to describe the importance of change in the Army.
“It’s all about transforming the Army,” Thurman said. “If you stay the same, if you keep running the same offense and defense, somebody’s going to beat you.”
Thurman, 56, will be promoted to four-star general and replace Gen. Charles “Hondo” Campbell as commanding general of Forces Command in ceremonies this morning at Fort McPherson in Atlanta.
Thurman will be the commander who oversees the move of the Forces Command headquarters to Fort Bragg over the next 15 months. As a result of the move, Fort Bragg, which has three three-star officers, will add a four-star general and two three-star generals.
An Eagle Scout, Thurman’s influences growing up were his father, his scoutmaster and his football coach. His wife was his high school sweetheart. As a youth, he was around ranches and cattle.
Military tradition is strong in his family. He’s the grandson of a World War I artilleryman, son of a World War II sailor and brother of a Vietnam War veteran. Both of his sons-in-law are Army officers.
His wife and family call him Jim, but in the Army he has always been known as J.D., he said.
The armor officer flew scout and attack helicopters until a low heart rate forced him out of the cockpit. At Fort Bragg, he served as a lieutenant and captain in the early 1980s in the 1st Squadron of the 17th Cavalry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division.
He recently returned to Fort Bragg for a discussion of the BRAC move.
“I was amazed going back to Fort Bragg how things have changed down there and how big the place was,” he said.
Since September 2007, he has been the Army’s deputy chief of staff for operations at the Pentagon. He was responsible for keeping track of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, coping with unexpected situations such as the Haiti earthquake and helping determine how the Army will be structured to meet future demands.
Forces Command oversees most Army combat units in the continental United States and is responsible for providing trained and ready forces to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world. The 2005 Base Realignment and Closure law directed that Forces Command and U.S. Army Reserve Command relocate from Fort McPherson to Fort Bragg no later than Sept. 15, 2011.
“I’ve always been around units that are in transition of some sort,” Thurman said.
One of his former units, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, moved from Germany to Fort Lewis, Wash., in the early 1990s. The unit then relocated to Fort Polk, La., and is now the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment back in Germany, he said.
Construction is under way on the headquarters for the two commands with space for about 3,000 workers at Knox and Randolph streets on Fort Bragg. For the past five years, the 11 counties surrounding Fort Bragg have been preparing for the new residents and to identify opportunities and challenges associated with the move.
“I’m excited about coming in here,” he said. “I really think the Fayetteville community up there has pulled a heavy load. Great leaders up there, great soldiers.”
Thurman said he has three priorities for the move of Forces Command headquarters to Fort Bragg.
“One, we want to take care of the people,” he said. “There’s uncertainty when you’re moving. You don’t have all the answers. You’ve got a mission, and you’ve got to stay focused on this mission. The nation is at war. Maintain continuity of operations.”
The second priority is “maintaining a high-quality, diverse work force,” he said. “There’s lots of civilians associated with Forces Command. There are two commands moving here.”
The U.S. Army Reserve Command also is moving from Fort McPherson into the same building on Fort Bragg as Forces Command.
The third priority is to maintain continuity of operations, he said.
Staff writer Henry Cuningham can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3585.