Maj. Gen. Scott Miller did not take the traditional Army path to the top leadership position at Fort Benning.
But Friday morning on a Parade Field behind the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center, Miller assumed command of the Maneuver Center of Excellence from Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster.
While he is an Infantryman, Miller has spent much of his 31-year career in Special Operations, a group of military personnel who carry out mostly covert operations in hostile or politically sensitive areas.
Miller commanded Delta Force, the Army’s elite and secretive counter-terrorism unit. In October 1993 as captain, he was the Delta ground commander during the Battle of Mogadishu, the subject of a book and movie entitled “Black Hawk Down.” He has served combat tours in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
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He comes to Fort Benning from Afghanistan where he commanded a NATO special operations joint task force that worked with the Afghan police.
Command Sgt. Maj. J.R. Stigall has served in Special Operations with Miller, including the last stop in Afghanistan. He said seeing one of their own get the Fort Benning assignment was special.
“We were sitting up in the stands, going, ‘I can’t believe this is actually happening,’” Stigall said. “People who work over there sometimes leave and go take Infantry divisions. But to take such a fundamental heart of the tradition of the Army job like this was amazing.”
The moment was not lost on Miller, who has been through Fort Benning in different capacities from trainee to student to instructor — for more than 30 years.
“I have been joking about that — ‘Oh the Special Ops guy is coming to Fort Benning,’” Miller said prior to the change of command ceremony. “I am a believer in the basics. What makes special operations strong is they master the basics. When you come back to Fort Benning, what do we do here? We go after the basics.”
Lt. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, who bid farewell to McMaster and welcomed Miller to his new post, said Miller is uniquely qualified for the Fort Benning assignment.
“I can think of no officer who has more combat experience, is more accomplished on the battle field today,” Mangum said. “Obviously, you will bring new insight and new perspective across our Army to the Training and Doctrine Command and the Maneuver Center.”
Miller had a number of friends in the crowd of more than 1,000 on Friday. About two dozen men — Rangers and Delta Force who fought in the deadly Mogadishu battle — were in attendance.
Stigall said Miller’s leadership style is a simple one that will serve him well at Fort Benning.
“He will listen to soldiers and he likes to hear their opinions,” Stigall said. “When he wants to know how to solve a problem, he wants the soldiers to tell him how to solve it. He will seek (non-commissioned officers) and soldier involvement on how to build the road.”
Stigall used an example of working with Afghan commandos since October of last year. Miller spent time in the field talking to the forces working with the commandos to “increase operation tempo” as elections were approaching in April.
Miller then communicated through video conferences, with as many as 144 people patched in, which allowed him to get his message to more people, Stigall said.
“He was able to put out guidance and direction from his level down to the lowest level at the same time and eliminate what we call stove pipes,” he said. “It is very flat communications.”
The advantage of this kind of communication is speed, Stigall said.
“It allows you to operate at the speed of battle,” he said. “The enemy is flexible enough to decide when and where they want to affect us. His system of flat communications allowed us to be as flexible as possible and quickly adapt to what the enemy was trying to accomplish.”
Miller said he is pleased to have drawn the Fort Benning assignment.
“I am about as excited about this assignment as I have ever been,” he said before the ceremony. “There are a couple of reasons why. It is home for a lot of us. I am an old infantryman. When you look at Fort Benning, Georgia, it comes down to people, mission and, of course, community. You put all three of those together and you got one fantastic assignment.”
Miller offered praise for McMaster, who has been selected for promotion to lieutenant general and reassigned to Fort Eustis, Va., where he will serve as the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center, Training and Doctrine Command.
“McMaster and Miller are like-minded,” Miller said. “... We will continue with what he is doing. Focus on leader development first and foremost. That is important as we move into the future.
“The future is going to be a complex environment. It only gets more complex as we go forward. We are going to think about future concepts the nation requires from its Army and maneuver force.”