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    Puerto Rico-based civil affairs unit changes command

    FORT BUCHANAN, Puerto Rico - In 2009, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Jurasek reported to Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, with one supply sergeant and a mission to man and train a civil affairs battalion from, basically, scratch.

    This Army Reserve unit, the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion, had furled its colors in Tonawanda, N.Y., in order to relocate to Puerto Rico, and all but one of its soldiers opted to forego the commute to the Caribbean and find a new assignment closer to home.

    After three years of hard work, a very different 402nd stood at attention as now-Col. Jurasek handed command of the unit to Lt. Col. Edward McFadden in a ceremony June 4 on Fort Buchanan. Now manned by over 150 Army Reserve Soldiers, the 402nd has been hailed as one of the strongest battalions in the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne).

    McFadden, a civil affairs officer who recently returned from a deployment to Iraq, said he was honored to join a battalion with a unique history and superb reputation.

    "I've heard nothing but great things about what the 402nd is doing, both here and down-range in Africa," McFadden said. "The deployments will not stop, but I know this unit is ready to meet the challenges, and will step up to the plate."

    Jurasek thanked the senior Army leaders at Fort Buchanan for their support and assistance in establishing the 402nd during the unit's first few months in Puerto Rico.

    In that time, word spread quickly around Army Reserve units in Puerto Rico that a civil affairs unit had moved to town; many of these Soldiers had served with civil affairs personnel on past deployments and were interested in the mission of working with civilian populations and civil authorities in areas of U.S. military operations.

    The 402nd quickly added and trained personnel in preparation for its 2010 deployment to Africa. In fact, the unit was ready to deploy far in advance of all established timelines, said Brig. Gen. Mark Hendrix, commander of the 402nd's higher headquarters, the 350th Civil Affairs Command in Pensacola, Fla.

    "Of all the ways you can measure [Jurasek's] success here, the most meaningful one to me is the number of Soldiers in this battalion who aren't in this formation today, because they're down-range accomplishing their mission," Hendrix said during the ceremony.

    Approximately 50 members of the battalion were available to attend the day's change of command ceremony; almost 100 more are serving on year-long deployments to northeast Africa.

    Jurasek was one of them, until he returned home a couple months early in order to hand the battalion's colors to McFadden and move onto his next assignment at the U.S. Army War College.

    "The soldiers here are the best," Jurasek said. "It's been an honor and a privilege to be a soldier here, much less a commander."

    "They're like my second family," he said. "We started from scratch and now we're one of the best battalions in USACAPOC(A)."

    The unit's relocation to Puerto Rico added several unique characteristics to the Army Reserve's civil affairs community.

    "Culturally, these soldiers are very close. Puerto Rican Soldiers mingle a lot easier than others, especially in Africa, where they're very Family-oriented," Jurasek said. "They fit in well with local populations, and that's a tremendous strength that you just don't find in the States."

    Many soldiers' high level of education contributed to the unit's morale and success, he said.

    "I have a professor, I have several doctors and lawyers," he said. "They are very mature soldiers, that's the thing that stands out."

    The majority of the U.S. Army’s civil affairs force comes from the U.S. Army Reserve, where soldiers can use the skills and experience from their civilian careers the enhance military operations when called to service.

    Military ceremonies, like changes of command, are opportunities for units to pause and recommit themselves to the profession of arms, Hendrix said.

    "Command at any level is truly the best job in the Army, because it puts you in the best position to do two very important things: take care of soldiers, and make the Army better," Hendrix said. "The Army and the nation hold commanders accountable for accomplishing the mission, keeping the institution sound and caring for our soldiers and families."

    McFadden brings a record of superior accomplishment and demonstrated willingness to take on the tough jobs, Hendrix said, citing his combat arms background as an Infantry officer and solid grounding at the tactical level.

    "His career reflects not just genuine expertise, but dedication, a strong work ethic and total integrity," Hendrix said.

    "But there's one more qualification that might be his most valuable of all," he said. "Long before he was Lt. Col. McFadden, he was Sgt. McFadden. What better way to know how to lead and care for soldiers than to have been one?"

    "In every way, he has earned the privilege of commanding this unit," he said.



    Date Taken: 06.04.2011
    Date Posted: 06.10.2011 21:56
    Story ID: 71923
    Location: FORT BUCHANAN, PR

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