JOLON — U.S. Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Patricia Wallace took charge of the 91st Training Division during a Sept. 16 change-of-command ceremony at Fort Hunter Liggett, becoming the first woman and first African-American commander in the 103-year history of the division.
“I’m ecstatic that I’m able to continue to lead at this level and to continue to serve,” Wallace said.
Wallace, who assumed command from Brig. Gen. Windsor Buzza, called the 91st Training Division essential to the Army and Army Reserve.
“We’re training war fighters, we’re training America’s sons and daughters to go to war,” Wallace said. “It’s one of the most important missions in the Army. I’m honored and humbled to be here and to lead these great group of soldiers.”
Wallace said her goal is to maintain the level of readiness that the soldiers already have at Fort Hunter Liggett.
“The division has a long legacy of leaders and contributions to the Army,” she said. “They know what they’re doing with their training. I just want to make sure that we stay relevant with our capabilities as the Army changes.”
Wallace noted the importance of families in the professional development and education of soldiers.
“We can’t do it without our communities and our families, and we understand that what we do affects them, whether it be our employers who allow us to be gone for significant amounts of time or our families and events we miss,” she said.
In regard to her race and gender, Wallace clarified that she is the first woman of color in command, not the first to command at the division.
“I’m just here to lead and if someone sees me and is motivated by that, great,” Wallace said. “A diversity of leadership and thought is really what the Army needs to continue to evolve, so I’m extremely happy and extremely proud.”
Wallace formerly served as Deputy Commanding General of the 88th Readiness Division at Fort McCoy, Wisc.
Wallace thanked outgoing Brig. Gen. Buzza for strengthening the foundation that she can build upon. She also thanked the soldiers.
“I will do all within my power to assure that you and your families remain first, you are properly trained, and you are equipped to perform your mission to send soldiers out to the battlefield and remain the best training division in the U.S. Army Reserve,” Wallace said.
Buzza reflected upon his command, when he first came to Fort Hunter in 2018 and a helicopter flew too close to tents. The result was 22 injured soldiers who were treated and released to duty the next day. However, early information got out that 22 soldiers had died and dozens were injured.
Buzza said that incident taught him not only the importance of overseeing the safety of soldiers under his command, but also ensuring correct information gets out, especially when it would lead to erroneous international coverage of soldiers being killed.
“That was a key learning point for me,” he said.
Buzza also recalled his assumption of command, when there was no general directly before him, meaning no ceremony to pass the colors. Instead, he marched up the hill overseeing Mission San Antonio to watch the sunrise, symbolizing a new day with his command.
“A new general has arrived and we’re going to move out with quickness to get after the mission we have ahead of us, and that’s to train soldiers to be most capable combat-ready and lethal reserve force the country has ever know,” Buzza said. “And that’s what we’ve been committed to the last two years.”
Buzza’s next assignment is in South Korea, with his mission as Wartime Chief of Staff for the Eighth Army. He has been to Korea 15 times in the past eight years and is familiar with the region.
Buzza characterized leaving the 91st Training Division as being like “leaving my family,” he said.