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Thompson takes reins of 412th

Published 11:29 am Monday, June 30, 2014

Heading up the 412th Theater Engineer Command is a distinction neither the unit’s current or former chief expected when their respective careers began.

“Thirty-three years ago, I was a private in the 416th Engineer Command, I wouldn’t have dreamed getting a flag of one of the engineering companies in the Army Reserve, let alone taking the flag of one of its two theater engineering commands,” Brig. Gen. Tracy A. Thompson said after his installment as commander of the Vicksburg-based Army Reserve unit.

Thompson took over the command from Maj. Gen. William M. Buckler Jr. in a ceremony Sunday at Vicksburg Convention Center. The Wisconsin native said he was ready for the responsibility.

“There’s a lot to do over the next three years,” he said. “I am proud to be doing it under the flag of the 412th. So, let’s get to it.”

Thompson, a lawyer with the Oakton, Va.-based Powell & Thompson P.C. firm since 1990, arrives at the 412th from the 420th Engineer Brigade in Bryan, Texas. His awards include the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Iraq Campaign Medal. As a transportation battalion commander deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom, his unit also earned the Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Buckler was assistant chief of staff, engineer for the Eighth U.S. Army in South Korea in addition to commanding the 412th since 2011. A 1978 graduate of West Point, Buckler left active duty in 1984 and retired from Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in 2010.

The three-in-one event featured the formal retirement ceremony for Buckler and one that formally promoted Buckler to his current rank.

“Thirty or 40 years ago, I went down a road I never thought would end here,” Buckler said in his remarks. “I remember as a young lieutenant, if I could just get captain and maybe retire as a lieutenant colonel with a battalion command, life would be complete. And it would have been — but I was fortunate enough to continue.”

In 2009-10, Buckler commanded and directed engineering forces in Afghanistan. He noted having to attend funerals of three soldiers who died in the line duty there as an example of the reserve’s mission.

“It puts a finer point on why we have to do everything we do,” he said. “The people who serve have a face. They’re soldiers, they’re citizens of our country, they have an awesome responsibility.”

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, chief of the Army Reserve, described Buckler’s wife, Carol, two children and four grandchildren as “a wonderful Army family” and declared Thompson’s resume a reflection of duty and “dedication to action.”

The 412th conducts theater-level engineer operations for the Eighth U.S. Army, U.S. Army Europe and U.S. Army Pacific and supports engineering requirements in the continental U.S. as directed. Constituted in July 1923, the unit’s most recent active status was between 2003 and 2010 to support the Global War on Terror.