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Cadet Command nearing full transition to Fort Knox

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Plans to unveil new headquarters in June

By Marty Finley

Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald on Saturday said his unit, U.S. Army Cadet Command, is about 72 percent of the way transitioned to Fort Knox as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Initiative.

The unit has been bringing members to Fort Knox as part of the transition for a couple years now and uncased its colors in November. McDonald expects Cadet Command to be 90 percent transitioned by June 3, when the command will hold an open house for its new headquarters adjacent to Brooks Field on post. It will reach the full transition and close out operations at Fort Monroe, Va., by July, he said during a news conference at North Hardin High School.

McDonald was at the school Saturday viewing cadets competing in an academic, drill and marksmanship competition hosted by the Seventh Brigade of JROTC.

McDonald, who assumed leadership of Cadet Command in November, said the June ceremony will coincide with the 25th anniversary of Cadet Command’s creation.

Cadet Command oversees the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program, as well as the Junior ROTC program. In all, Cadet Command maintains 273 senior ROTC programs in colleges and universities throughout the U.S., the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa, according to the U.S. Army. More than 36,000 men and women are enrolled in the college ROTC program, which produces more than 60 percent of the second lieutenants in the Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve, according to the Army.

In addition, about 300,000 students are enrolled in JROTC in more than 1,600 high schools, according to the Army.

As part of its transition to Fort Knox, McDonald said Cadet Command plans to create a cadet park on its headquarters to honor graduates who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Most of the members under McDonald are making the transition, he added, and priority placement services are aiding about 22 members who want to switch jobs.

McDonald said uprooting a command from its post is always challenging, but it is a welcome undertaking.

“It’s not a challenge that’s unfamiliar to the Army,” he said. “It’s actually kind of a healthy process.”

Just like a physical move from one home to another, the move from Fort Monroe to Fort Knox allows Cadet Command to review its operations and strip away unnecessary components, he said. Likewise, the move has welcomed new members who offer a fresh set of eyes and ideas.

McDonald, a Tennessee native, said the locale is perfect for Cadet Command.

McDonald made the move from Iraq while his wife moved to the state from Fort Hood, Texas.

McDonald said his family did not have a long history of military service but he decided to join JROTC after he saw how the leaders of his high school program carried themselves with poise and authority.

He said he was impressed by the teamwork on display at the competition, which generates the type of competitive fire and life skills needed to further the cadets’ military experience.

“It’s knowledge, it’s skills, it’s tactics,” he said.

Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com.