• New leader arrives at CAC-Training

  • In 1979, a 14-year-old boy immigrated to the United States from Guyana with his family.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    In 1979, a 14-year-old boy immigrated to the United States from Guyana with his family.
    When he was just 16 years old, he graduated from high school in Newark, N.J., and received a letter from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., asking him if he was interested in applying.
    And thus began a more than 30-year career with the U.S. Army that continues as Brig. Gen. Stephen Michael assumes responsibility as the new deputy commanding general of Combined Arms Center-Training in a ceremony today.
    When Michael was first approached by West Point, he said he didn’t know what it was.
    “I talked to my father and he said it is the American equivalent of (Royal Military College) Sandhurst, which we knew because Guyana was a British colony,” Michael said, “so, I applied to West Point and it was a long road to get there. It took three years.
    “I attended community college, went to prep school and got the letter of acceptance, but I still had to get my citizenship,” he said. “I applied for my citizenship as soon as my fifth year expired and got it a week later. They saw I was accepted to West Point, so they expedited it, and my swearing-in ceremony was a private ceremony at the Immigration Naturalization Services in the judge’s chambers. … A week later I was reporting to the man in a red sash.”
    Upon his graduation from West Point, Michael went to Fort Drum, N.Y., where he served as a rifle platoon leader, a mortar platoon leader, a company executive officer and as the battalion S-4 of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry, 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. He also deployed on his first combat mission in support of Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.
    Then he attended the Captains Career Course at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and became company commander of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. While in that position, he deployed to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in support of Operation Desert Focus, a response to the Khobar Towers Bombing.
    “We basically went to secure American forces in Saudi Arabia,” Michael said.
    Upon his return, Michael came to Fort Leavenworth and spent a year at the Training and Doctrine Command Analysis Center before attending and graduating from the Command and General Staff Officer Course in 2001.
    After his CGSOC graduation, Michael served as the operations officer for the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy, where he said he has a memory he will never forget.
    “I was in Italy during Sept. 11, 2001, so it was really surreal being out of the country and really almost as an observer watching everything happen back home,” he said. “It was a memory that will stay with me forever.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Following his time in Italy, he served as a ground planner in the Southern European Task Force’s Joint Planning Group. In that role, he was responsible for Sub-Saharan Africa and deployed to Ghana and Nigeria as part of Joint Task Force Liberia. The mission was to help the economic community of West African States stabilize Liberia as President Charles Taylor was exiled to Nigeria.
    In the following years, Michael served as aide de camp to Lt. Gen. Kip Ward, then-deputy commander for U.S. Army Europe, and deployed to Israel, Baghdad and Afghanistan.
    Michael said his 15-month deployment to Al Doura, Baghdad, stands out.
    “That experience resonates with me and will probably stay with me forever,” Michael said. “A lot of phenomenal soldiers did some hard, consequential work and made a difference, and all of those guys I would consider my friends and my family.”
    Since being promoted to a general officer, he has served as deputy commander for operations with the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii; as deputy chief of staff, G-3/5/7 for U.S. Army Pacific at Fort Shafter, Hawaii; and deputy J5 for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Aiea, Hawaii.
    “(Deputy J5) was my most consequential job as a general officer, helping write the strategy to compete with China and also helping influence and shape key war plans for Indo-Pacific,” Michael said. “At the end of the day, the services pretty much do the same thing. They are all training and preparing for war, but combatant commands are the ones that actually fight and do the nation’s bidding.”
    Now, as Michael assumes responsibility of CAC-T, he said it is a blessing.
    “If you look at this job, its primary purpose is enabling the Army to train. We’re either training and preparing for war or we’re actually fighting in a war,” he said. “The war is not something we seek. War is unforgiving and it comes at a pretty terrible price, but at the end of the day humans choose war. For the nation, if there is a war, then we’ve got to win, so I can see no better job than doing things that enable the Army to train and enable the Army to be ready in case of war.”
    He said he has two goals for CAC-T.
    First, represent the user.
    “At the end of the day, the things that we do enable squads, platoons, companies, battalions, brigades, divisions and even corps to train,” Michael said. “I’ve served in all of those organizations. I understand their perspective and best works.”
    Second, keeping the organization connected across the network.
    Page 3 of 3 - “There is a live network out there and lines of authority … that influence or enable training,” Michael said. “I want to make sure we’re connected to that network, to the best minds, to the best technology and all the folks that can give the Army a much better product or enable the Army to be much more ready.”
    Finally, Michael said, through it all, the people are his No. 1 priority.
    “The mission is incredibly important, but we will accomplish the mission because of our people. The most important thing when you receive the colors is the American lives that you are now responsible for. We will invest in our people and will do everything in our power to make sure that this Army has the best resources,” Michael said.
    “True to TRADOC’s motto ‘Victory Starts Here,’ I believe that victory starts way before you lock horns with the enemy. It is the way you train and the way you fight, the way you lead and love back here. We will continue the tradition of what CAC-T has done.”
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