Four years ago, then-Lt. Gen. Robert Brown took command of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s I Corps headquarters and turned its focus from its last deployment in Afghanistan back to its traditional role, keeping an eye on the Pacific Rim.
Now a four-star general, Brown is on his way west as the next commander of the Hawaii-based U.S. Army Pacific. The headquarters manages relationships with American allies along the Pacific Rim while drawing on troops stationed at JBLM, in Alaska and in Hawaii.
The Senate last week confirmed Brown’s promotion, ending an assignment he held since he left JBLM in 2014 as commander of the Army leadership development program at the Combined Arms Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Brown follows Gen. Vincent Brooks as Army Pacific commander. Brooks, who visited JBLM several times a year to check on troops training for exercises in Asia, is taking command of U.S. Forces Korea.
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Brown has a long history at JBLM. He helped build one of its first Stryker brigades and commanded it on a deployment to Iraq in 2004-05. The News Tribune embedded with his soldiers that year.
Brown last served at JBLM from July 2012 to February 2014 as the corps commander during a time of rapid change for the South Sound military community.
JBLM added a division headquarters under the command of now-Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza. Its Stryker brigades recovered from their last major deployments to the wars and began to get back out in the Pacific.
Army-wide downsizing also began to unfold during Brown’s command, along with forced federal budget cuts known as sequestration.
Brown participated in exercises in Australia, Japan and South Korea that had taken a backseat during the corps’ deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since then, Lanza, Brown’s successor as corps commander, has accelerated the base’s Pacific shift with more overseas exercises for local Stryker soldiers. Some units from the base still are rotating into Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a lifelong athlete who played basketball at West Point, Brown tended to liken his role as an Army officer to a coach trying to bring out the best from his players.
He brought Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Duke University men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski to JBLM for discussions on leadership with soldiers.
“The Army is all about being a great team,” Brown said during Krzyzewski’s 2013 visit to JBLM. “Our lives depend on being a great team.”