Army Maj. Gen. Robert Brown, who led Fort Lewis’ second Stryker brigade into combat in Iraq in 2004-05, has been nominated to command Joint Base Lewis-McChord and I Corps, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.
Brown, 52, who’s in line to receive his third star, would succeed Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who took command of the base in October 2010 and deployed to Afghanistan last July with I Corps to become the No. 2 commander of that war.
Brown would be the first Stryker infantry brigade commander to come back as overall commander at Lewis-McChord, which is home to some 12,000 Stryker troops and the birthplace of the medium-weight infantry force.
The change of command is expected to occur after Scaparrotti returns from Afghanistan in late June or early July, said Maj. Christopher Ophardt, a spokesman for I Corps.
Brown would command the Army presence at the largest military installation on the West Coast. Lewis-McChord also is Pierce County’s largest employer with more than 50,000 military and civilian personnel and more than 53,000 family numbers.
Brown is currently commanding Fort Benning, Ga., and the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence. His new assignment and promotion are subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
His arrival would come as Lewis-McChord is under unprecedented scrutiny for a rising number of soldier suicides and several investigations into the treatment of soldiers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder at Madigan Army Medical Center.
The base also is dealing with a string of high-profile crimes involving present and past local soldiers, including Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, suspected of killing 16 Afghan civilians on March 11.
The military announced Scaparrotti would be moving to his next assignment in late January.
A Fort Benning spokesman said Brown was traveling Tuesday and unavailable for comment.
A 1981 West Point graduate, Brown grew up in Michigan and was preparing to play basketball at the University of Michigan when famed Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, then coaching at Army, invited him to visit the United States Military Academy in the late 1970s.
Brown told The News Tribune in 2005 that he learned more about discipline and teamwork playing for Krzyzewski than any other experience at West Point. They were lessons he instilled in the soldiers he led in the years ahead.
Brown arrived at Fort Lewis in 2002 as a colonel to complete the conversion of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division into the Army’s second Stryker brigade.
During 1/25’s deployment, the brigade fought to quell the insurgency in and around Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city. The Army renamed and moved the unit to Germany in 2006.
Col. Ken Kamper, who commands the 17th Fires Brigade at Lewis-McChord, served under Brown during the Mosul deployment.
Kamper said he was confident in Brown’s ability to lead a much larger organization upon his return to the Pacific Northwest.
“He’s just a dynamic guy who’s focused on team-building and unlocking the potential in the individual soldier and that soldier’s team,” Kamper said.
The Army has lined up a new job for Scaparrotti upon his return from Afghanistan this summer. He has been nominated as director of the Joint Staff, which would have him working for the nation’s top military officer, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey.
Lewis-McChord’s past two commanding generals deployed with I Corps to lead the day-to-day combat operations in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Ophardt said I Corps’ next rotation would come up in three years, but that schedule isn’t set in stone. Lewis-McChord commanding generals typically serve for two years.
“Looking at the options available, there’s a good possibility he won’t (deploy with I Corps) but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to,” Ophardt said.
Christian Hill: 253-274-7390