81st Readiness Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Kenneth D. Jones and Command Sgt. Maj. Levi Maynard case Jones's personal colors during a retirement ceremony July 29, 2020 at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Jones is retiring after 40 years of service to the nation. The socially distanced ceremony was live streamed on social media for Family members and friends unable to attend the ceremony. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Espinosa)
By Sgt. Alexandra Shea 319th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
FORT JACKSON, S.C. – The U.S. Army Reserve's 81st Readiness Division bid farewell to Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Kenneth D. Jones, during a socially distanced relinquishment of command ceremony July 30 at the Headquarters Building on Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
“This is challenging,” Jones said of the current times. “We all have to wear face masks and the people we love can't be here.”
His two daughters tuned into their father's ceremony as it was live streamed on Facebook by the 81st RD. They were joined by the rest of the “Wildcat Family,” who largely are working remotely to help win the battle against the COVID-19 virus.
The U.S. Army Reserve Command Deputy Commanding General Maj. Gen. A.C. Roper was unable to attend the ceremony in person due to travel restrictions. In his stead he recorded a personal message that was played during the ceremony. While Roper virtually hosted the ceremony, Commanding General of the 80th Training Command Maj. Gen. Bruce E. Hackett presided in person.
“It's important that we conduct this ceremony because it represents over 100 years of Army tradition,” Roper said in his video. “Today, it is with great pride that we recognize Ken Jones who has done an amazing job of leading this division through some turbulent times during our most important transformation, command and control re-balance.”
Roper continued by thanking Jones, theWildcat Nation and the Jones Family for their support and service throughout the transformation.
As Roper's video came to a close, Jones approached the podium to give his final remarks, his last official act as he relinquished command to Ricciardi.
“Ricciardi is the deputy commanding general of this command and will be taking the baton here today,” Jones said. “He is the man that will lead this command until another is chosen to take this command. Joe, I know you are ready to lead and I thank you for what you are going to do for this command.”
Jones continued his speech by thanking those who impacted and influenced his life and career. He also addressed the Soldiers of the Wildcat Nation thanking them for their continued dedication and service as the division transformed over the past few years. The mission to provide responsibility of base operations for 81st RD's footprint across nine southeastern states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, while ensuring units and Soldiers are prepared to deploy and fight in multi-domain operations for current and future Combatant Commander Force requirements.
“I'm humbled to assume command of the storied 81st Readiness Division,” Ricciardi said. “Together with the great Soldiers and civilians of the Wildcat Division, we look forward to continuing the momentum on the transformative initiatives that Maj. Gen. Jones has started.”
Ricciardi also said the Wildcats were setting the stage for a smooth transition when a commander is chosen and arrives to continue the work the 81st has begun.
As the ceremony came to a close, Jones gave his heartfelt thanks to those closest to him, his Family. He thanked his wife Cheryl for the past 44 years of support to help pursue his career while helping to raise their two daughters Allison and Amanda.
Cheryl stood at his side during the relinquishment ceremony in addition to his retirement ceremony held the day before.
“I've had to watch you grow up from afar,” Jones said to his daughters, his voice catching. “I want to thank you for your love and support. I wouldn't be where I am in my career today without Cheryl being there for the past 44 years. You all know who the real general is now. Thank you ... Wildcat Six signing off.”