Paul Steven Ghiringhelli
The 10th Mountain Division (LI) command group conducted a farewell ceremony Oct. 18 at Magrath Gym for a general who has served more than two years at Fort Drum and who played a pivotal role in leading operations while deployed to Regional Command South in Afghanistan this past year.
Soldiers, Family Members and friends came to honor Brig. Gen. Jeffrey L. Bannister, the division's outgoing deputy commanding general for operations.
"Jeff's a Soldier first, which is a key to understanding and serving those that you lead," said Maj. Gen. James L. Terry, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander. "All positions, from team leader to division commander, require Soldiers to have humility, act with selfless service, demonstrate integrity and to be disciplined examples for any Soldier to follow.
"When you look back on this great division," Terry said, "I firmly believe that these are the simple qualities of our leaders, from private to general, that have established the reputation of the 10th Mountain Division.
"Jeff, you have sustained that reputation," he told the Rome, Ga., native. "As we say back in Georgia, 'You've done good, partner.'"
In his next assignment, Bannister will serve as deputy director of operations at U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla. He is scheduled to be replaced by Col. (P) Richard D. Clarke Jr., who serves with Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.
The division was fully represented at the ceremony by Soldiers lined up on the gym floor facing audience members and holding unit colors. Bannister was accompanied by his wife, Tracy, and daughter Lindsey Jean, both of whom received red roses as a token of the division's gratitude for their unwavering support of Soldiers, Family Members and the community.
Terry, who soon departs Fort Drum for another assignment as well, spent a significant amount of time commending Bannister's efforts in a "demanding, yet very successful deployment" to Af-ghanistan, where he said Bannister "masterfully" executed everything from disruption missions and air-assaults to precision special ops missions and countless other tactical operations.
"Jeff Bannister played a pivotal role not only in prosecuting our campaign plan … but also in orchestrating the training and readiness of every formation associated with the 10th Mountain Division," said Terry, who spent a year commanding coalition forces in Regional Command South in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where the two just returned from serving.
Terry said down range, Bannister was known not only for his personal discipline and integrity but also for his "nocturnal battle rhythm," spending late nights burning the midnight oil on complex operational plans.
"Here's why," Terry said. "Jeff Bannister had the monumental task of synchronizing the operations of five brigades … which totaled in excess of 32,000 Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
"There is no doubt that Jeff's efforts in coordinating the regional command's campaign activities resulted in progress throughout some of the hardest-fought terrain in Afghanistan," he said. "Our campaign took back terrain that once served as a Taliban stronghold and a Taliban safe haven. More importantly, there is no doubt that Jeff's efforts saved the lives of service members and civilians."
During his nearly 30-year Army career, Bannister has held company-, battalion- and regimental-level leadership positions with the 75th Ranger Regiment and has deployed to Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Before coming to Fort Drum, he served as executive officer to the commander of Multinational Force - Iraq.
"The Bannister Family has upheld our proud legacy here (at) the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum," Terry said. "On behalf of a grateful nation, I want to thank you for your service to the 10th Mountain Division and to the North Country."
Bannister stood at the lectern next. He first and foremost recognized his "two ladies – Tracy and Lindsey." He also spent time thanking comrades, staff members and the North Country community.
The general then took a moment to recall meeting Gen. Stanley McChrystal in May 2010, while he was still commanding U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
He said the general slammed his hand down during a speech to make a loud clap.
"'Do you know what that is?' McChrystal asked. 'That noise is the impact the 10th Mountain Division has when they hit the ground here in Afghanistan.'
"In my humble opinion," Bannister said in closing, "it was a very compelling (impact) that the 10th Mountain Division brought into Regional Command South. You should be very proud of what we have accomplished."
The ceremony concluded with Soldiers singing the 10th Mountain Division Song and the Army Song.