For the last four years, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley sat at the helm of U.S. Army Reserve Command.
In that time, the Reserve force has been more battle-tested than any other time in its history.
No longer a strategic reserve, waiting in the wings, Talley and other Army leaders said the nation's citizen-soldiers have become an operational reserve, actively deployed across the nation.
The brand, Talley said, has never been more highly valued.
So it was a reluctant Talley who relinquished command of that force Wednesday at Fort Bragg.
With no successor confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Talley handed the USARC colors to Gen. Robert B. "Abe" Abrams, the commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command.
Abrams, who hosted Talley's relinquishment ceremony outside the headquarters building shared by Forscom and USARC, said Talley wasn't leaving because he wanted to. He was leaving because, by law, he had to.
"He turns into a pumpkin tonight," Abrams joked, referring to Talley's four-year statutory limit on serving as commander of USARC and chief of the Army Reserve.
Maj. Gen. David J. Conboy, deputy commanding general for operations at USARC, will serve as interim commander until Talley's replacement is approved, officials said.
Abrams said a new commander should be named and welcomed by the end of the month. In the meantime, he led a celebration of Talley's accomplishments.
"He's leaving with an incredible legacy," Abrams said.
Talley led a 198,000-soldier force, with another 25,000 civilians, all serving as a critical part of the Army's total force.
Abrams noted that much of the Army's medical, sustainment, civil affairs, engineer, military police and signal forces serve in the Reserves. They've played big roles in all current conflicts and theaters, he said.
In the last four years, 62,000 Reserve soldiers have been mobilized to support the nation's ongoing military efforts. And many remain deployed to 30 countries.
"When the nation calls on its Army. the capabilities of the Army Reserve are a central element to the response force," Abrams said.
The active component can't achieve the nation's national security goals alone, he said. It takes the total force to train together, fight together and win together.
For the last four years of his 34-year career, Talley has led efforts to transform the Army Reserves into a ready fighting force.
At the same time, he's overcome "unprecedented" challenges, including the first reduction to the Reserve force since the end of the Korean War, severe budget cuts known as sequestration, a government shutdown and more.
Through it all, Abrams said Talley has not only helped improve the training and readiness of the Reserve force, he's improved the quality of life for Reserve families, creating and improving programs and hosting hundreds of seminars for Reserve troops and their families.
"'Thank you' is not quite strong enough," Abrams said.
Talley, who is retiring from the Army, said it had been a great honor to lead the Reserve.
He thanked his wife, Linda, and the community for support over the last four years.
While jokingly referring to his replacement as "He-who-must-not-be-named" because of the lack of an official announcement, Talley said he hoped the same level of support would be there for the next commander.
He said the nation's citizen-soldiers play a huge role in preventing conflict and shaping operational environments.
"The Army Reserve is without a doubt the most battle-tested in the nation's history," he said.