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Meet JBLM's #1

I Corps commander reflects on his time in service

Gen. Michael Garrett, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, passes the I Corps colors to Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson during an assumption of command ceremony at JBLM, Oct. 6, 2021. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Kyle Larsen, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - If you've had the opportunity to hear him speak, then you know what passion Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson, commanding general of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, has for the Army.

That passion didn't just come out of nowhere. Brunson, the eldest son of three, grew up watching his dad, Albert Brunson, a retired U.S. Army sergeant major who served in the Vietnam War.

Brunson's career began in 1990, when he was commissioned out of Hampton University in Virginia. That same year he also became a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, a nationally known all-male and predominantly Black fraternity.

"All I've ever wanted was to be a soldier," Brunson said. "I've never aspired to be a doctor, a lawyer or an educator. I just wanted to be a soldier, because that's what I saw in my dad. Going into the Army was a natural continuation for me after being with a group of men (in Omega Psi Phi) that I really wanted to be around every day."

The Brunson family is extremely close, with younger twin brothers, LaHavie and Tavi Brunson following in their dad's footsteps as well. They are both currently Army brigade commanders.

"I don't think pride in my family even approaches how I feel about it; I would say I am honored, and that's what I hope comes across when I speak about my family," Brunson said.

Together, the Brunson family has served over 100 years in the U.S. armed forces. This didn't come without its fair share of obstacles.

"I've been in the Army now for 31 years," Brunson said. "I've seen a lot of stuff in those 31 years. Sometimes when you see things that you think are wrong, they really aren't wrong, they are just waiting for you to provide a solution to make them better."

Brunson attributes his outlook on life to his biggest role models: his parents, as well as the gospel.

"‘Do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly,'" he said, reciting the verse. "That's Micah 6:8, and that's my command philosophy."

A wooden sign with this very scripture is positioned in front of his desk.

"I want to be better today than I was yesterday, and I want to be better tomorrow than I am today; I can't settle," Brunson said. "(Complacency is) the most dangerous thing in the world; you have to keep a little bit of uncomfortable in your pocket at all times."

Life is all about balance for Brunson as he navigates what's best for his career and for his family.

"I'll tell my staff sometimes to not put anything on my calendar, because that's the day my son comes and we have lunch together," he said. "Everyone should have a vertical alignment that they adhere to. My wife is absolutely awesome, and I make time for that, because there is no excuse for not demanding that (family) time."

Brunson and his wife, a retired U.S. Army colonel and the first Black female judge in the Army, share three children: daughters Raechel and Rebekah, who are both currently in Korea teaching English, and son Joshua, who is making quite the name for himself as a gymnast.

Brunson said he learned at a young age that you have to always do good by anyone you can while you have an opportunity. The Army has made great strides toward this, he said.

"We are moving forward based on the efforts of those before us," Brunson said. "This month in particular, an African American woman and an African American man doing this interview at this level is huge."

Brunson is only the second Black officer to command I Corps, the first being Lt. Gen. Calvin Waller from 1989 to 1990 and again in 1991 - the same year Brunson graduated from college. He is also the only Black officer to have commanded the 7th Infantry Division.

"Someone needs to see me doing the job I'm doing, and I need to do it well," he said. "I'd much rather show my soldiers than to tell them."

That's part of the reason Brunson brought a ROCKS, Inc. chapter to JBLM.

"This is a mentoring organization for folks of all colors, all races and makeups, because everybody needs somebody to help get them right," he said.

ROCKS, Inc. is a nonprofit organization providing officers and cadets mentorship, scholarship and fellowship in their military careers, while also offering volunteer opportunities, guidance for military and civilian transitions, and a forum for networking.

"There's never a finish line," Brunson said. "As long as the Army continues to move forward, we're doing fine. What we can't do is become numb to success."

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