Editor’s Note: This article was published as part of a content-sharing agreement between Army Times and The Fayetteville Observer.

Hundreds of paratroopers marched across Pike Field, Black Hawk helicopters flew overhead, and the 82nd Airborne Division’s colors were passed from one commander to another Friday.

Maj. Gen. Christopher LaNeve relinquished command to Brig. Gen. J. “Patrick” Work, who is awaiting Senate confirmation for his second star.

LaNeve is taking command of the Eighth Army in Korea, while Work arrives from recently serving in Washington D.C. as a special assistant to the deputy chief of staff of the Army.

The 82nd Airborne Division has more than 19,000 paratroopers, with three brigade combat teams, a sustainment brigade and a combat aviation brigade.

It specializes in joint forcible entry operations and provides the nation’s Immediate Response Force, which has a mission to deploy worldwide within 18 hours of notification.

Outgoing commander

Lt. Gen. Christopher Donahue, commander of the 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Liberty and also a former 82nd Airborne Division commander, oversaw Friday’s command change ceremony.

Donahue heralded paratroopers for their actions during a 2022 deployment to Poland “to arm and equip Ukraine” in its fight against Russia and support NATO.

During the deployment, LaNeve took command from Donahue in March 2022.

Under LaNeve’s leadership, Donahue said, paratroopers deployed to support operations in Sudan and are preparing for deployments to the Middle East and back to Europe.

LaNeve “transformed the division,” Donahue said.

LaNeve said he considers it an honor to have led the division for the past 20 months.

He said what sets the division apart from others is that all of its paratroopers — from private to general — are riflemen.

“Commanders come and go, but the paratroopers hold true to the legacy of this division,” LaNeve said.

He highlighted a few of those paratroopers, like a private first class who recently had the fastest time in his company for completing a 12-hour ruck march in less than two hours; a corporal who’s been selected for the White House staff’s Presidential Communication Command; and a first lieutenant who recently received the Soldier’s Medal for saving the lives of others in a civilian setting.

“I’m going to sleep well in my bed this weekend … because I know when called, these paratroopers will always be ready to stand in the breech of the fight,” LaNeve said. “They will run to friction, and they will always win.”

He wished Work and his family “godspeed” for being part of the command.

Incoming commander

Donahue said Work is no stranger to the division and had a “defining moment” during the battle of Mosul when he was commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.

The brigade was credited with playing a key role in the fight against the Islamic State and supporting the liberation of Mosul and Tal Afar in Iraq.

Prior to commissioning into the Army, Work was a linebacker for the Army’s football team.

According to Work’s biography, he was commissioned into the Army in 1995 as a rifle platoon leader, first serving under the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, followed by the 75th Ranger Regiment at then-Fort Benning, Georgia, and later serving as a joint task force liaison officer under the U.S. Special Operations Command.

He was also deputy commander of support for the division from June 2020 to April 2021.

Donahue told Work that he and other Army leaders have confidence in his ability to lead the division.

“The good news is that your job is easy because of those paratroopers,” Donahue told Work. “We’re at this inflection point, everything that (LaNeve) has started you must see through and finish. You must execute your mission in Europe.”

Work, who kept his remarks brief during Friday’s ceremony, thanked Army leaders for their trust in him and congratulated LaNeve on his next assignment.

He described the paratroopers he’ll be leading as “a national treasure.”

“I respect you and I know you care a hell of a lot more about what your commanders do than what they say. … I look forward to serving you and serving with you as we ready this division for war.”

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