Army Lt. Gen. James Terry is taking command of the 3rd Army, which is based in South Carolina and is in charge of supporting all U.S. military forces stretching from Egypt to Kazakhstan. (Army via AP)
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. — The new three-star Army general in charge of supporting U.S. forces in Afghanistan said Tuesday he is faced with pulling about 34,000 troops and billions of dollars of U.S. equipment out of the fractious region in the coming months.
“It’s a big challenge,” Lt. Gen. James Terry told reporters shortly after he took over command of the 3rd Army at its headquarters on Shaw Air Force Base in central South Carolina.
“We’ll pull down about 34,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines by February of this year,” the 57-year-old general said.
The 3rd Army is in charge of supporting and sustaining all U.S. military forces in the Central Command region, which spans 20 nations from Egypt to Kazakhstan.
Afghanistan is a land-locked nation with no access to a nearby port. So much of the war-fighting equipment accumulated there over the past decade of warfare has to be trucked, flown or moved through areas with sparse or challenging infrastructure.
The equipment includes heavily armored vehicles and tons of communications gear, making for a complex operation, Terry said.
Much of his job will involve working with the governments of nations in the region to allow U.S. materiel to flow safely and securely, no matter where they are in the region. U.S. Army forces in the Central Command region are often involved in exchanges or exercises with local military forces in the area to build ties.
“We have to focus a lot on engaging with our regional partners out there to create conditions for greater stability,” the Chatsworth, Ga., native said.
Terry took over from Lt. Gen. Vincent Brooks, who was in charge of the U.S. military drawdown in Iraq. Brooks will tack on a fourth star and will become the commander of all U.S. Army forces in the Pacific, based in Hawaii.
Terry comes to the post after serving as the V Corps commander in Heidelberg, Germany, and Afghanistan.
There are around 60,000 U.S. forces remaining in Afghanistan, down from a peak of about 100,000 in 2010.
“It is not just the movement of the personnel back, it also entails the retrograde of the equipment,” Terry said, adding that another job includes taking U.S. military sites and working to “demilitarize” them.
“Third Army has a real grip on it, and is doing phenomenal work there,” Terry said.
The 3rd Army transferred its headquarters to Shaw in 2011 in a move from Georgia dictated by the 2005 round of Pentagon base closures and realignments.