RAF MILDENHALL, England — U.S. Brig. Gen. Michael J. Tarsa has assumed the role of deputy commander of a British division, becoming the first American general to serve in that capacity in the British army, a spokesman said. Tarsa was previously the deputy commander of the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, Colo. In January, the Army chief of staff announced his assignment to deputy commander 3rd (United Kingdom) Division and he started his new job at Bulford Garrison, in Wiltshire, England, on Tuesday. Tarsa told the division staff it was a “distinct honor,” according to Maj. Laurence Roche, a spokesman for the division. “I wear my nation’s uniform as a member of the U.S. Army, but I now have the privilege to be part of the British army and 3rd Division,” Roche quoted Tarsa as saying. Roche said Tarsa is the first U.S. general to serve in a British army division. “I think it’s a recognition in this post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan period that we need to work better with our key allies,” Roche said. Such cooperation is not limited to the United Kingdom. Last year, U.S. Army Europe welcomed its first non-American chief of staff in German Brig. Gen. Markus Laubenthal. The 3rd, known as “The Iron Division,” is the British army’s only division kept continuously ready for operations. Comprising three armored infantry and one logistics brigades, the division makes up most of Britain’s rapid-reaction force, capable of deploying at short notice for contingency operations. Hoping to bridge the culture gap between Tarsa and the British troops, the division commander offered some advice to his new deputy.
“We may use cricket analogies to explain ourselves, 100 miles is a long way, banter is a sign of affection, not disrespect, and don’t worry if you can’t always understand our regional accents,” Maj. Gen. Patrick Sanders said, according to Roche.