David Burge

›› Archive photos: Fort Bliss Commanding General Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard
›› Fort Bliss' Brig. Gen. Stephen M. Twitty, Col. Al Shoffner on the move
›› Incoming Fort Bliss commander has ties to El Paso

For the past two and a half years, Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard has lived a dream he thought was impossible.

Pittard, 53, has been the commander of Fort Bliss, his hometown Army post, since July 2010. He also took over as commander of the 1st Armored Division in May 2011.

On Tuesday, the Army announced that Maj. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland will replace Pittard, probably in May.

"It's been a dream job," Pittard said. "I never would have imagined as a young man, commanding Fort Bliss and a division in my hometown. It's been such a blast."

As the commanding general at Fort Bliss, he oversaw the transition of the post into the new headquarters for the 1st Armored Division and one of the biggest expansions of a military installation since World War II.


Pittard rattled off some highlights from his tenure.

Fort Bliss today is "the premier installation" for training and preparing soldiers and units for combat, Pittard said.

A rash of new construction, including the state-of-the-art Freedom Crossing shopping center, has improved the quality of life for soldiers, families and civilians who live and work on the installation, he added.

The third area he pointed to were ongoing efforts to make Fort Bliss "self-sufficient in energy, water and waste by the end of 2018."

Pittard is a 1977 graduate of Eastwood High School. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., in 1981.

Before coming to Fort Bliss, he was the deputy chief of staff for operations and training for the Army's Training and Doctrine Command in Virginia.

He also served as the commanding general of the National Training Center and Fort Irwin, Calif.

Retired Brig. Gen. Richard A. Behrenhausen said Pittard "did a remarkable job of transitioning Fort Bliss from a training post to a combat operations post."

"I've known Dana since he was a young lieutenant," Behrenhausen said. "He was the perfect choice to oversee the transition of the post and bring the 1st Armored Division to El Paso. You couldn't ask for better ambassadors for the Army than Dana and (his wife) Lucille."

Richard Dayoub, president and chief executive officer for the Greater El Paso Chamber of Commerce, said Pittard has a series of singular achievements while leading the transition that brought the 1st Armored Division to Fort Bliss.

These include breaking ground on a new $966 million Beaumont replacement hospital that's scheduled to open in 2017, numerous green energy projects and the seamless management of deployments of thousands of Fort Bliss soldiers, Dayoub said.

Perhaps, Pittard's lasting legacy may be the creation of an "open post" where visitors need only a picture ID to get on the base.

"Having an open post is clearly at the top of the list of his commitments to make this a seamless community," Dayoub said.

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-El Paso, also praised the job that Pittard has done.

"Maj. Gen. Pittard will be remembered for helping to make Fort Bliss one of the most important installations in the U.S. military," O'Rourke wrote in an email. "His driven, intelligent and empathetic leadership inspired confidence and allowed him to connect with people at Fort Bliss and in the larger El Paso community.

"He recently took me on a three-mile run to give me at tour of recent developments that have taken place at Bliss," O'Rourke continued. "The growth and innovation that have taken place under his leadership is staggering. And you could tell from the pride with which he spoke about his soldiers, Fort Bliss and El Paso that he gave this job his all."

Retired Maj. Gen. John Oblinger is a former Fort Bliss commander who now lives in El Paso.

Pittard "has been good for Fort Bliss," Oblinger said.

"He's a good commander," said Oblinger, who served as Fort Bliss commander from 1979 to 1982. "He's forward-thinking, energetic."

David Burge may be reached at; 546-6126.