Rev. Arthur Helwig tells the story of his teenage son mowing lawns to earn money – not for a first vehicle or engaging in some type of youthful frivolity – but to buy a set of World War II special editions published by Life magazine.
“He wanted to know what that war was all about,” said the 77-year-old father of Brig. Gen. Jered P. Helwig. “He read them religiously, knew what the military was all about and knew what he had to do to make a difference.”
Years later, that deep interest in the military graduated into an unceasing commitment and dedication to the Army, eventually affording him the distinction of being amongst the less-than-1-percent of Soldiers earning the rank of general. The standing Chief of Transportation and T-School commandant was so-honored during a ceremony Monday in Wylie Hall auditorium.
Among the few hundred attendees were the Honorable AlanF.Estevez, former assistant secretary of defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness; Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams, Defense Logistics Agency director; Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general; Command Sgt. Maj. Michael J. Perry III, CASCOM CSM; and CSM Terrence T. Scarborough, Trans. Corps CSM.
Also on hand were roughly 30 members of Helwig’s family including his wife, Diana; children Nathan and Joel; and parents, Arthur and Dorothy.
Lt. Gen. Edward M. Daly, deputy commanding general for Army Materiel Command, hosted the event. He served with Helwig at a prior assignment, and noted how he has “conquered the rungs of leadership” with a rare mix of professional competency, dedication, passion and compassion.
“Gen. Marshall once said this about leadership and generalship,” Daly reflected. “‘It involves the highest caliber of military skills, demonstrating comprehensive understanding of standards, physical stamina, moral courage, strength of character, and flexibility of mind to conquer the complexities of the operating environment.’
“Ladies and gentlemen, Jered possesses all of these qualities juxtaposed with an unbelievable humility and a passion for taking care of Soldiers and families. He not only does things right, he does the right things.”
Retired Lt. Col. Bill France can attest to the latter. He was the professor of military science at Wheaton College (Illinois) where Helwig completed the ROTC program. France said his former student showed promise even as a cadet.
“He is truly a servant-leader,” he acknowledged after the ceremony. “He puts you ahead of himself. He’s very humble and has a natural talent – I could see it when he was a cadet – for organizing and delegating. … I could delegate a field problem to him as a cadet, and I wouldn’t have to worry about it. I knew he would get it all put together.”
Helwig, who has five deployments, has served in mostly operational Army assignments throughout his career. They include the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Polk, La.; 82nd Sustainment Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C.; 710th Brigade Support Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; and 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Bde., 3rd Inf. Div., Fort Stewart, Ga.
Helwig’s varied assignments and accomplishments over a 25-year career are unparalleled, said Daly, who entertained the crowd with splashes of humor throughout the course of his speech. He wasn’t joking, however, when he said Helwig is among the best.
“He is one of the finest trainers, coaches, mentors, leaders and Soldiers I have ever met.”
At the lectern, the subdued but glowing Helwig dedicated the entirety of his speech to the village who raised, guided and aided him on his journey through childhood, adolescence, college and a military career.
“… As I look out on this audience, I see people from literally every stage of my life,” he said, reading from written notes. “Most of you are very familiar with the fact that in this profession promotions have almost nothing to do with individual merit, talent or performance. Rather, they reflect the collective trust, effort, commitment and the sacrifices of many to develop, direct and grow potential.
“You made those sacrifices on my behalf, and so really, this ceremony is more symbolic of your dedication than anything else,” Helwig, continued. “It’s all of you – the family, teachers pastors, mentors, advisors and leaders in this audience – who really should be standing up here.”
Helwig’s message then shifted its focus, zeroing in on fellow Soldiers and his military experience.
“We have shared the extremes of this profession together – in the happiness of homecoming ceremonies with families cheering, in the sadness of memorials as ‘Taps’ played out,” he said. “We have gone out for a night in dress-mess and lived for weeks filthy in the field. … We have fought all kinds of enemies together – insurgents, lawlessness, human tragedy, cancer and the results of natural disasters. … For all of those experiences, I’d like to say thank you.”
At one point in his speech, Helwig became slightly emotional after mentioning the support he had received from relatives. His wife Diana explained her husband’s family is centered on giving, and although they had been introduced and acknowledged several times during the event, he was probably struck by the fortuity of having them there that day and throughout his journey.
“Their family is very, very special,” she said. “When you actually think about those people and not just hear their names – think about who they are – that takes it to a whole new level. His family really is all about service.”
The elder Helwig and his wife Dorothy have worked for at least a decade helping to develop communities ravaged by AIDS in some of the most dangerous places in the world. His brother is doing similar work in the Philippines, and his sister is a nurse.
Diana, who received an honorary promotion to major general prior to her husband’s ceremony, is a mother, educator and “military community cheerleader of the highest regard,” the COT observed.
“She has a servant’s heart and is the true reason I am here today,” he lovingly said during his remarks.
Officially promoted Dec. 2, Helwig delayed his swearing-in ceremony to accommodate his father, who could not make the December date due to commitments in Africa.
Helwig took over duties and responsibilities as COT in June 2018 and will likely be rotating to a new assignment later this year.