This story was first published in the Fayetteville Observer.

FORT BRAGG — Leadership for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command has changed.

Friends, family and soldiers said goodbye to retiring commander, Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, and Command Sgt. Maj. Marc Eckard during a ceremony Friday at Fort Bragg.

The command’s successors are Lt. Gen. Jonathan Braga, who arrives from his recent assignment as deputy commander for U.S. Army Pacific, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Weimer, who arrives from the U.S. Special Operations Command Central at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command has more than 27,000 soldiers in its four subordinate commands – the 1st Special Forces Command, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command and 75th Ranger Regiment.

“You have been at the forefront in keeping our nation safe since 9/11 at a high cost and a time away from family and loved ones,” said Gen. Richard Clark, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command and the reviewing officer of Friday’s ceremony.

Clark said Beaudette has reminded him of what the U.S. Army Special Operations Command does to support the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Beaudette has upheld the Special Operation Forces No. 1 value that “humans are more important than hardware,” Clark said.

He thanked Beaudette for recruiting from the Army’s “deepest pool of talent,” and for caring for the command’s Gold Star families.

“It’s not lost upon any of us that you’ve personally volunteered to lead in Afghanistan during some ambiguous times,” Clark told Beaudette.

Beaudette, who has served in the Army for 32 years, has worn the Green Beret since 1995 and led the U.S. Army Special Operations Command since June 2018, thanked those who support the command.

“I can’t just package the past 38 months, never mind 32 years ... other than (to say) how blessed we’ve been to be a small part of it,” he said.

He thanked the Gold Star families for their sacrifices, thanked his own family, commanders, sergeants major, non-commissioned officers, warrant officers, other leaders in the command and the civilians who have supported it.

And, he thanked the soldiers.

“The self-belief in your exacting standards solve the nation’s hardest and most intractable problems — never say no, or I can’t do that or it’s not my job, challenge every assumption and frankly just giving it your all,” Beaudette said.

He encouraged the soldiers to remain ready.

“The enemy that you predict today I assure you will not be the enemy you fight tomorrow,” Beaudette said.

Included in Beaudette’s thanks was Eckard.

“Thank you for your stellar, disciplined and values-based leadership,” Beaudette said.

Clark told Eckard the Army has been fortunate that he’s led its formations for 34 years.

In welcoming the command’s new leaders, Clark said he is confident Braga will build on the momentum, as Braga has served during the past 30 years to include pre-9/11 and helping lead fights with special forces and special mission units.

Like Braga, Clark said, Weimer is no stranger to Fort Bragg or the U.S Army Special Operations Command.

Braga said he, Weimer and Chief Warrant Officer 5 Robert Davis are “honored to lead the men and women of the Army Special Operations Command.”

He thanked Beaudette, Eckard and their families for supporting the command during the past three years.

“Today’s about the legacy of this formation and our shared future,” Braga said.

Braga said he and Weimer understand the significance of the task to lead the command.

He said he is honored to represent what the pioneers of the command started along with the legacy of the 1,241 soldiers who have died while serving in it which is a reminder that “America’s finest don’t quit, they lead the way and they free the oppressed.”

“There are new challenges ahead for this nation that will absolutely rely on this formation as it has the last two decades and actually has since the creation of our Army,” Braga said. “The entirety of this formation will have a significant role to play in the ongoing competition of our adversaries, and we’ll be prepared to support the point force in high-end conflict if required.”

Fayetteville Observer Staff writer Rachael Riley can be reached at or 910-486-3528.

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