Jan. 2013 Story: New Fort Bliss commander: 'When my son-in-law, serving in southern Iraq, tells me he's bored, that means something'

EL PASO, Texas - Wall Street Journal reporter Lawrence F. Kaplan's view of Maj. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland came to change over time they both spent in Ramadi, Iraq.

"Serene in the conviction that (then) Col. MacFarland cared more about victory than about its cost, I soon learned that my biases had things backward," Kaplan wrote in a 2011 column. "At the landing zone where he loaded body-bags onto helicopters, the colonel was spotted one night behind a stack of medical kits, sobbing into his shirt sleeve. Toward the end of the deployment, one of the brigade's officers told me, he sensed that Col. MacFarland wanted to climb into a body bag.

"At his promotion ceremony years later ... quietly and haltingly, MacFarland confessed to the audience that 'the many shattered bodies and shattered lives that made victory in Ramadi possible' had led him to ask himself if he was worthy of this honor. 'I am not.'

"Back in Kansas, MacFarland says that, with the brigade's achievement now well-chronicled, the unpleasant images have become cloudy and flickering. 'I have to believe all of it meant something,' he said. 'When my son-in-law, serving in southern Iraq, tells me he's bored, that means something.'"

Read the full Wall Street Journal column here.

MacFarland, the deputy chief of staff of operations for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, is being reassigned to commanding general, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, it was announced on Tuesday.

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