After serving 28 years in Iraq, Afghanistan and Korea, and training soldiers at bases throughout the country, Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr. is coming home to the Palmetto State.
But it's hardly a vacation. As of Friday, when he was sworn in as the 51st commander of Fort Jackson, Beagle will oversee training for more than half of the U.S. Army's new recruits.
When stationed at most other bases, "we say 'this feels like home.' Today, I don't have to say that. This is home," Beagle said during the Friday ceremony.
Beagle replaces Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, who will serve as deputy commanding general at Fort Shafter in Hawaii.
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"You will knock it out of the park," Johnson said of his successor. "There is no doubt in my mind."
Fort Jackson plays a key role in training recruits. The base's commander has more "direct responsibility" for training soldiers than any other officer in the U.S. Army, said Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, who commands the Army Center for Initial Military Training.
Beagle recalls a retired general telling him, "If you stop doing what we do here at Fort Jackson for 30 days, the Army would come to a grinding halt."
The Enoree native — who has gone by "Beags" since one of his military superiors gave him that nickname on his first Army assignment — said he takes the new responsibility in stride.
"I'm elated at what I get to do and whom I get to do it with," Beagle said during the ceremony.
Beagle attended Woodruff High School, where he ran track and field. In 1986, he won the state 2A high school championship in hurdles. He turned down an opportunity to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y, and enrolled at S.C. State University in Orangeburg, where he joined the ROTC program. It was after he graduated from S.C. State that he first received training at Fort Jackson, he said.
Beagle's family is close. In addition to his wife and two sons, his aunt, uncle, cousins and more attended the ceremony. Robert Byrd, Beagle's uncle on his mother's side, said he hasn't missed one of Beagle's major ceremonies.
"You're going to see a lot of us. A lot of family," Byrd said before the ceremony started. "We just load 'em up and roll on."
Beagle's older son, Jordan, 23, wore his Army uniform, adorned with the rank of second lieutenant, to the ceremony. Jordan Beagle said after living as a child in South Korea and seeing how his father could positively affect people's lives, he wanted to do the same.
"I'm looking to follow in my father's shoes," Jordan Beagle said. "(They're) big shoes to fill."