Strong relationships make for a strong Army.
That’s one of the messages from Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza as he prepares to hand over command of I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Lanza has spent considerable time during the nearly five years he’s been stationed at JBLM working to secure the connections he believes make the Army, and the nation, stronger.
“These relationships enable war fighting,” he said.
That has included forging ties with Pacific Rim nations to pave the way for joint training exercises and working with JBLM neighbors concerned about the effects of increased training missions on base, he said.
Those local relationships might be the most important of all, Lanza said in a roundtable with news reporters Thursday, four days before he turns over command of I Corps to Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, who is scheduled to be promoted to a three-star general on Monday.
“We in the military have to stay connected to the people we serve,” said Lanza, who is to retire June 1 after a nearly three-decade career. “Trust is the bedrock of our profession.”
Lanza, 59, came to JBLM in October 2012 to command the 7th Infantry Division. He led the division and its 20,000 troops for a year before receiving his third star and taking over command of I Corps.
In that time he helped to foster Pacific Pathways, an initiative to conduct joint deployment rehearsals with partner nations in Asia.
Those exercises enhance the readiness of U.S. forces and their allies, Lanza said.
He also worked to establish ties with local governments, universities and business leaders, both to expose those under his command to civilian life, and civilians to life inside the fences at JBLM.
Those relationships will be important as JBLM becomes the site of increased training exercises, which are on the horizon as the Army looks to reduce the costs and logistical hassles of holding such events at the Yakima Training Center, Lanza said.
Providing “good predictability” to local leaders about what’s happening is crucial in gaining their support for on-base initiatives, he said.
That can be a double-edged sword. Plans to train with a mobile missile system at JBLM recently were shelved after a public outcry about disruptive noise.
Lanza also said he foresees JBLM remaining one of the nation’s busiest military bases but doubts that it will add or subtract troops, even under President Donald Trump’s push to increase military spending.
“I think we are going to stay about the same,” he said.
Lanza praised the troops he has led for their professionalism and dedication in executing the Army’s policies and in defending the nation.
“I leave here humbled by what they do and proud of their accomplishments,” he said.
Lanza said he and his family intend to reside in the Tacoma area after his retirement, at least until his son graduates high school.
In the meantime, he’ll begin looking for work, he said, and continue to maintain ties with the Army.
“I’ll be a soldier forever,” Lanza said.