School commandant promoted to general officer
Brig. Gen. Thomas A. Pugh, the 37th chief of signal and commandant of the U.S. Army Signal School, received his first general star in a promotion ceremony held Oct. 16 in Alexander Hall in front of his family, friends, fellow Soldiers, officers and a few of his mentors.
Lt. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell, the Army chief information officer/G-6, was the officiating officer.
“When I got the phone call from Tom (Pugh) asking me if I would come down here to be part of this ceremony, I said absolutely because he is family,” Ferrell said. “Today is about family and not about Tom.”
Ferrell briefly talked about the accomplishments of Pugh’s wife Cindy, an information technology expert, and their two sons, Alexander, a physics major at the University of Tennessee, and his brother Zachary, who is a senior in high School interested in forensic science.
The general also praised Pugh’s mother, Mary, and his father, as well as Cindy’s parents, who raised five daughters, for the moral foundation they helped lay down for their children.
“The Army tends to get it right,” Ferrell said. “We have this tagline that I think really resonates with everyone and it says the strength of our Army are our Soldiers and the strength of our Soldiers is our families.”
“When you look at Thomas’ background he really was set up for the Signal Corps,” Ferrell explained. “If you look at the things he has done in our service it is remarkable.”
One of six boys, Pugh grew up in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. Centuries prior to the Civil War, Native Americans used a location on the mountain known as Signal Point to send fire and smoke signals across the Tennessee Valley.
According to Pugh’s mother, the Union Army used Signal Point as a communications station during the American Civil War.
With a background like that it’s no wonder he became a Signal officer. After graduating from Virginia Military Institute in 1990 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
Upon completion of the Signal Officer Basic Course at Fort Gordon, Georgia, in November 1990, he was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) at Fort Drum, New York. He served as the battalion signal officer for 2nd Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment. He was then assigned to 10th Signal Battalion, where he served as a platoon leader in B Company and then as the Assistant S3 (Training). From there he took on additional challenging assignments, to include several deployments to Haiti, Iran, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Pakistan and many other countries in Southeast Asia while serving in a command billet.
“Tom (Pugh) wanted to go back to Fort Gordon as a special assistant here on staff,” Ferrell said. “Later he was assigned as the deputy brigade commander for the 35th Signal Brigade and then the brigade commander. If you look at his track record, experience, and education, you know the Army continues to get it right.”
“It is no secret why Tom (Pugh) is here today,” he explained. “We trust him with this responsibility. So today, as you look at this promotion, it is no secret why we are here. But I will tell you, getting selected for general officer, is what I call magic. There is no rhyme or reason for it. Once you get to the rank of colonel you have a bullpen of qualified officers.”
Typically, you have to narrow it down from 2,000 qualified officers to 40, according to Ferrell.
“That’s hard,” he explained. “It’s not a surprise to me that Tom (Pugh) was selected and I am very honored to be here today.”
After the new rank was put on, and the new one-star general, recited the oath of office, he took a few minutes to thank the people who helped him along the way.
“The ceremony is really about you – the folks in the audience,” Pugh said. “It’s the people who have touched me over the years from very early days until now. So we wanted to put on something you all would enjoy. I hope you learned a little about the history of the rank. This ceremony is really about all of you.”