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Fort Drum introduces new 10th Mountain Division command sergeant major


FORT DRUM — As the 10th Mountain Division headquarters prepares to deploy to Afghanistan, it introduced its new top enlisted soldier.

Rodney R. “Ray” Lewis replaces Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Merritt in the role.

Before arriving on post earlier this week, Command Sgt. Maj. Lewis served as the top enlisted soldier for the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Fairbanks, Alaska.

It was an assignment the Cincinnati, Ohio, native had hoped for earlier in his 32-year career, applying to come to the post in 2000.

“The reputation of this organization is out there,” Sgt. Maj. Lewis said.

Division commander Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said Sgt. Maj. Lewis’s record and reputation made him an easy choice to fill the role.

“He’s the right command sergeant major for the future of this group,” he said.

The next assignment for Sgt. Maj. Merritt, who arrived on post in February 2012, will be at the Pentagon as a special assistant to the sergeant major of the Army, Raymond F. Chandler III.

Gen. Townsend called Sgt. Maj. Merritt his “stalwart,” a role model and an example of what right looks like.

During his remarks, Sgt. Maj. Merritt told the soldiers he hoped his legacy would be the discipline instilled in them during their training.

“That will make or break us on the battlefield,” he said. “That’s why we have success on the battlefield against our enemies.”

He also thanked Gen. Townsend, the soldiers, his family and the north country area for their support.

Sgt. Maj. Merritt spoke optimistically about the headquarters’ deployment to Afghanistan, as the unit helps close major operations there at the end of 2014.

The outgoing command sergeant major admitted frustration about not being able to go, citing his health as the reason he was not deploying.

“My body has failed me, but I will not give up,” he said. “I learned many years ago your mind controls the body,and I will fight back.”

During his remarks, Gen. Townsend described the loss of Sgt. Maj. Merritt as a “gut punch.”

However, he said that the decision was the right one for Sgt. Maj. Merritt and his family, and that “our Army’s going to be better off for it.”

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