News: Houston-based Army Reserve unit marks change in commanders
Story by Maj. Adam Collett
HOUSTON – The list of Texas population centers that are well known for a military presence is reasonably short. Central Texas has Fort Hood. West Texas has Fort Bliss. And the community known as Alamo City has Joint Base San Antonio (which itself comprises the Army’s Fort Sam Houston as well as the Air Force’s Lackland and Randolph bases).
Houston is the nation’s fourth-largest city, yet is not normally included on such a list because it lacks a large active-duty installation. Yet the Bayou City does have a significant military and veteran population, and some will tell you that this population centers around Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, a military and homeland security compound co-located with Ellington Airport, approximately 15 miles south of the city’s center.
The job of commander for the senior-ranking unit at Ellington – that of a major general – changed hands here today.
But the position is not just the top military job at Ellington. It is also the senior military position in all of greater Houston, and for at least 150 miles in any direction. Someone in Houston would have to travel to Austin, San Antonio or western Louisiana to find another serving two-star general, whether active or Reserve.
That senior-ranking entity is the 75th Training Command, an Army Reserve unit. While the 75th was created for combat infantry operations in World War II, it currently specializes in designing and supervising simulations-based trainings for other military units. And though the 75th has subordinate units in New Jersey, California, Arkansas and elsewhere, Houston is home base.
In Reserve military units, the full unit only gathers for once-a-month weekend assemblies, yearly field training exercises and of course activations for missions at home and abroad. In the most senior of these Reserve units (commanded by colonels or generals or their equivalents), it is not uncommon for those commanders to live in a different city or state than where the unit is located, meaning that they travel regularly to supervise the operations of their assigned unit.
Such is the case with the 75th. The unit’s outgoing commanding general, Jimmie Jaye Wells, resides just outside of San Antonio. The incoming commander, James Young, Jr., calls Virginia home. But both men have a special affinity for Houston.
In addition to being the commander of the 75th for the last three years or so, Wells has also previously served as a commander for one of the unit’s subordinate divisions, which happens to also be headquartered in Houston. During both of his tours on the Texas Gulf, Wells has maintained close Houston ties by being active in the local community.
“I can’t say enough about how meaningful my time in Houston has been,” Wells says. “From the livestock show and rodeo to the Kemah boardwalk to high school events in Cypress and elsewhere, the Houston area has shown over and over how much it cares for its troops and veterans.”
Wells cites that community support as key in helping the unit’s soldiers and families survive and thrive in the last decade-plus of war.
“While the 75th’s current mission does not include full-unit overseas deployments, these Houston-based soldiers have definitely contributed to the fight,” Wells says. “Practically non-stop since 9/11, the 75th has been helping to train units both large and small for deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.”
Wells also points out that in that same time frame, many of the unit’s troops have deployed individually to those combat zones with other units.
Young is about to get his first significant taste of Houston, and he says he’s glad it’s with the 75th.
“This city already can be quite proud of the 75th,” Young says. “This is a unit that saw combat service in WWII’s Battle of the Bulge, and that currently runs complex training exercises all over Asia and the rest of the globe.”
Young has a plan for his tenure as commander.
“It will be a part of my challenge to ensure that we continue to play such a key role in America’s overall military preparedness, while staying firmly connected with the Houston community, and other cities where our units are based.”
The change in leadership for the military unit was marked by a formal ceremony held on Ellington Airport, just outside of the joint reserve base’s perimeter. Troops and guests alike converged on an open field adjacent to a civilian hangar that houses the private Texas Flying Legends Museum for the event. The program featured a horse-mounted review of troops, the ceremonial firing of artillery cannons, and the symbolic transfer of the unit’s flag, known as the colors.