Brig. Gen. Bryan Roberts is the new commander at Fort Jackson, S.C. (Army)
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FORT JACKSON, S.C. The new general in charge of the Army's largest training base said Tuesday that even as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, America's soldiers still have to train to deploy around the world.
"We've had an Army that's at war for the last 10 years. However, we have always been engaged in 80 countries throughout the world," said Brig. Gen. Bryan Roberts, 52.
The one-star general spoke after taking command during a tradition-laden ceremony that passed ceremonial flags from one commander to another and marked the retirement of the current commander, Maj. Gen. James Milano.
Roberts said he intends to train soldiers for "a great Army that is ready to deploy and defend this nation around the world," whether that means helping the nation recover from a tragedy on the home front of the likes of Hurricane Katrina, or fighting in a war zone like Iraq.
The former armor cavalry commander said proper combat training does not come easily.
"Every day you have to work on it, you can't take it lightly," he said.
Fort Jackson trains more than 60,000 new soldiers every year, entering a force that is due to contract from its current level of about 560,000 down to 480,000 over the next six years amid budget cuts and the pullback from the wars.
Roberts said he will use his 28 years of Army experience to help guide him, including three tours in Iraq and a stint as the deputy commander of the Army's recruiting force. And despite the announced force cuts over the horizon, the general said the Army's door is wide open.
"The Army has tremendous opportunity for everybody. If you are qualified, you will represent the nation. Give it a shot and if you are selected, we will be honored to have you," Roberts said.
Roberts comes to Fort Jackson after serving most recently in Iraq overseeing the training of Iraqi security forces.
He has served as the deputy commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox., Ky., and as commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team with the 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas. He also has worked at the White House military office and on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.