State News

Fort Bragg, 18th Airborne general was 'total package'

Posted May 15, 2012 4:02 a.m. EDT
Updated May 15, 2012 5:02 p.m. EDT

— Fort Bragg and the 18th Airborne Corps bid good-bye Tuesday to their commanding general known around base for his wide grin and around the world for leading the U.S. draw-down of troops in Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick said he doesn't care for the word "retirement." Tuesday's ceremony marked his transition from 37 years in the Army to a new career in the private sector.

"You may take this soldier out of the Army ranks, but you'll never take the soldier out of my heart," he said.

He thanked his wife and two adult daughters for their support and told soldiers that he hoped he left a legacy of service to them.

"To all of you with whom I've served over the years, I hope that you will remember the Helmick team as committed, dedicated and genuinely concerned about soldiers and their families," he said.

Helmick handed over the 18th Airborne's flag to his deputy, Maj. Gen. Rodney Anderson, during the ceremony attended by CIA Director and former Gen. David Petreaus, who went to West Point and served at Bragg with Helmick.

"He was and is the total package. one of those once-in-a-decade officers who not only can do it all, but do it all exceptionally well," Petreaus said.

Helmick took command of the 18th Airborne in November 2009 and led it through deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and an emergency mission to Haiti after that country's devastating earthquake. His crowning achievement was overseeing daily operations during the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. He and Fort Bragg soldiers got the job done by Dec. 31, 2011.

"There's been a constant theme in my military career: great soldiers, great leaders, great bosses," Helmick said.

Anderson will command the 18th Airborne until Lt. Gen. Dan Allyn arrives in June to take the helm.