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Change at the 7th

New commander promises to remain ready

Maj. Gen. Thomas James pats Maj. Gen. Willard Burleson on the back as he takes command of the storied 7th Infantry Division. Photo credit: J.M. Simpson

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"Let's go."

With those words, Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky, commanding general, I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, began the 7th Infantry Division's change of command ceremony last Friday morning on Watkins Field.

Maj. Gen. Thomas James relinquished command of the division to Maj. Gen. Willard Burleson.

Attending the transfer of command were numerous retired military officials, civic leaders and family friends.

Noteworthy, too, is the fact that the 7th ID first activated in December 1917, only a few months after Camp Lewis opened its gates to prepare soldiers for combat during World War I.

Referred to as the Bayonet Division, in 1950 the 7th ID was one of the first units committed to the fighting during the Korean War.  Following its actions during the Inchon Landing, Gen. Douglas MacArthur referred to the 7th as his "Bayonet Division" because it would stab into the heart of Korea.

"This division has almost one hundred years of defending freedom," Volesky continued. "Wars are won by the excellence of their training, and Maj. Gen. James has instilled a culture of readiness in these warriors."

Today, the division is a combat-ready organization comprised of more than 14,000 soldiers who remain regionally engaged in the Pacific and locally connected to the surrounding communities.

The unit is comprised of seven active brigades and one associated brigade from the Washington Army National Guard.

"This has been the ultimate highlight of my career," said James. "I have been honored to command the same division Lt. Gen. William Harrison did, and to have served in the hall named after him."

A former I Corps commander, Harrison was also the first mayor of the nearby city of Lakewood.

"I promise to remain ready," commented Burleson in his brief remarks. "There is a great deal of uncertainty in the world, and the 7th Infantry Division will prepare in peace to be invincible in war." 

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