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NEWS | Feb. 23, 2016

Four questions with the new commander of the 78th Training Division

By Maj. Sean Casey 78th Training Division


JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. – With already a month of commanding 78th Training Division Soldiers during January’s Warrior Exercise “Arctic Lightning,” Brig. Gen. Michael Dillard was formally handed the reigns of the Lightning Division during a change of command ceremony here on Saturday.

Dillard succeeds Brig. Gen. Bruce Hackett who commanded the division since 2013. 

Upon graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1983, Dillard also received his commission as a field artillery officer through the University of Richmond’s ROTC program.  

Before coming to the 78th Training Division, Dillard held numerous command positions in the U.S. Army Reserve, his most recent as the commander of the 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) in Indianapolis. 

The 78th Training Division’s mission is to enhance the operational effectiveness of Army Reserve units, and Dillard is no stranger to the world of training and readiness. The general has also served in the Army Reserve’s 80th, 85th and 75th Training Divisions throughout his 32-year career. 

Dillard, a Sussex County, Virginia, native, now makes his home in Pelham, Ala. and works for Allstate Insurance Company as a Claims Service Leader.  

During the unit’s February battle assembly, Dillard answered questions to help get to know their new commander. 

Q. As you assume command of the 78th Training Division, what leadership principles have you developed throughout your career that you want to bring to the unit? 

“There are two principles that I find lead to unit success. Number one – empower Soldiers. By giving them challenging opportunities alongside your guidance and mentoring, leaders open pathways for Soldiers to excel personally and professionally. Number two – set the example. If you want Soldiers to meet high standards, accept responsibility for their actions, or uphold soldier ethics, you won’t get far if you’re not doing these things yourself.” 

Q. How would you describe your command philosophy?

“I believe in living in a perpetual state of self improvement. Building an environment where our Soldiers are consistently analyzing how to better communicate, be more proficient in their professional skills, or be a more supportive spouse are just some of the practical ways to put this philosophy into action. An internal belief in yourself and your character is infectious – it’ll spread amongst your team. 

“Talking about this philosophy always reminds me of Gen. Colin Powell who said, ‘Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible.’”  

Q. What are your priorities for the 78th Training Division as its commander? 

“Our vision is for the 78th Training Division to be the best training organization in the Army Reserve. That’s a big challenge, but if that’s our focus, not only will we as a unit benefit, the entire Army Reserve benefits. 

“We’re focused externally on incorporating more agencies into the exercise planning process. This includes the active-duty Army, sister services, along with other government organizations to achieve full-spectrum training scenarios. From an internal perspective I want leaders focused on talent development. We can only accomplish our mission when our own Soldiers are ready and motivated to do the job.”   

Q. In your view, what’s the significance and impact of the 78th Training Division? 

“From World War I to our most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst has been the place where Soldiers prepare for combat. The 78th is the lead agent in continuing this legacy. We have a duty to serve our fellow Soldiers of the Army Reserve by providing them with well-organized and relevant training opportunities for their commanders to achieve, improve or sustain their unit’s readiness. 

“A unit’s success during real-world missions overseas is a direct reflection in how well we did our job. We can’t forget that. We won’t forget that.”