When Maj. Gen. Patrick Matlock found out he and his family would be returning to Fort Bliss, it was “like a dream come true.”
That’s how Matlock described how he felt when he learned about his latest assignment — as the new commander of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss.
The 53-year-old from Willows, California, had previously served at Fort Bliss as the 1st Armored Division’s chief of staff from July 2012 to February 2014.
He returned this summer and took command of both the division and installation on July 12.
“It was such a great surprise to learn we were coming back here,” Matlock said.
“We were so pleased. It was definitely the first choice of what we wanted to do.”
Matlock, his wife and their children enjoyed their previous time here and grew to really love both Fort Bliss and El Paso.
“We feel very comfortable here in El Paso and at Fort Bliss,” Matlock said. “It is such a great town and such a great community. Fort Bliss is awesome from top to bottom.”
Most recently, Matlock served as the director of training for the Army staff at the Pentagon.
When he was at Fort Bliss previously, he was instrumental in helping to get the 1st Armored Division established after it moved from Germany under the Base Realignment and Closure process.
He served under commanding generals Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard and then under Lt. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland, who was promoted to a three-star general after leaving Fort Bliss. Both Pittard and MacFarland are now retired.
Matlock expects his latest assignment at Fort Bliss to be just as busy if not busier.
The division’s 3rd Brigade recently deployed to South Korea. Its 1st Brigade finished up a rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, and will convert from a Stryker infantry brigade to an armored brigade during the next 18 to 24 months.
The 2nd Brigade returned from a nine-month deployment to Kuwait this summer, and the Combat Aviation Brigade is gearing up to deploy to Afghanistan next year.
The division headquarters deployed to Iraq under Matlock’s predecessor, Maj. Gen. Robert “Pat” White, and returned in March. The headquarters is ramping up its training again and recently went through a Warfighter exercise at Fort Bliss. It is the division headquarters’ version of a National Training Center rotation.
The Sustainment Brigade will continue to train and will have a mission announced in the next few months.
“There is no unit in the division that doesn’t have an announced mission or an anticipated mission,” Matlock said.
Fort Bliss is also providing troops, equipment and support for the controversial border operation ordered by President Donald Trump.
President Trump ordered up to 5,000 troops to provide support to the Border Patrol and other civilian authorities along the border in response to a caravan of migrants traveling through Mexico to the United States.
Matlock said his number one priority is to build readiness and make sure the division and all its units are ready for any mission that may lie ahead.
“We are singularly focused on making sure our personnel is ready, we have the right equipment in the right place to perform our missions, that our equipment is well maintained, operational, all the maintenance is complete and soldiers are trained — everything from individual weapon qualifications through our collective training, whether company, battalion or division level,” Matlock said.
“That is it,” he added. “There isn’t any other priority we have.”
Of course, Matlock wants to make sure that military families are taken care, that the installation is run smoothly and that Fort Bliss remains a good neighbor to El Paso.
“El Paso can expect the division and all the units to be busy and stay busy,” Matlock said. “They will see units coming and going for the foreseeable future. It means a lot to us that we leave our families here in this community and they are well cared for, that they are in safe patriotic community that supports the military.”
“We always want to thank them for that and we will work as hard as we can to make sure that relationship stays strong,” Matlock continued.
By David Burge/Special for the Herald-Post
Burge is a producer at ABC-7 in El Paso. He has more than three decades of experience working in newspapers in California, New Mexico and Texas
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