During a change of command ceremony on Friday, July 12, Col. Whitney B. Gardner officially took over duties as the Fort Rucker Garrison Commander from Col. Brian E. Walsh.
Commanding General of the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker Maj. Gen. David J. Francis thanked Walsh and the garrison command team for their work providing services to the soldiers, civilians and all associated with Fort Rucker. He said the garrison team was selected “as the Army’s nominee for the 2018 Commander in Chief’s Annual Award for Installation Excellence” as well as receiving the 2018 Chief of Staff Communities of Excellence Gold Award.
“To the entire garrison team, thank you very much for ensuring the quality of life that is commensurate with the quality of our soldiers, our families, retirees and civilians here,” he said while welcoming Gardner to his new role. “I am fully confident that we will continue to build on the success that the team Walsh has built for us at Fort Rucker,” he said.
Director of Training for the U.S. Army Installation Management Command Vincent E. Grewatz also thanked the garrison team for the support it provides soldiers, families and others at Fort Rucker.
“To the garrison team, you guys are awesome,” he said. “I appreciate what you do every day. You get it done, and I’m so proud of your commitment and dedication to serve. Your accomplishments testify to the hard work and sacrifice that you make every day to deliver extraordinary services to those who call Fort Rucker home as a place to work, play, pray and train.
“Your charge after today is not only to continue your legacy of excellence to this community, but also to train your new commander on what you do and how you do it. Make him and the community that he leads successful and worthy of the soldiers and families that work here.”
Grewatz complimented Walsh on his work as garrison commander during a period of change for the Army.
“We’ve seen reorganization,” he said. “We’ve seen resource modifications. It’s been a dynamic couple of years for you. Thank you for leading through that.”
He also welcomed Gardner to the role as garrison commander, stating that this role will provide new challenges to him.
“U.S. Army Installation Management Command’s mission is to integrate and deliver base operations and support to enable readiness for a globally-responsive Army,” he said. “The garrison is the heart of that mission, and the leaders of the garrison are key to its success.
“The Army doesn’t train its leaders to be garrison commanders, something that you’ll learn very soon, something that Brian (Walsh) has already learned,” Grewatz said with a laugh. “But it does train leaders. It trains leaders who are capable, caring, innovative and motivated to win this high contact sport.”
He said Gardner is the right person to take over command of the garrison from Walsh because of his career and leadership experience.
“We’re, of course, fortunate in the Army to have a whole cadre of leaders, and we didn’t have to look far to find another Army family capable to take on the mantle of leadership here,” Grewatz said. “You’ve distinguished yourself in the past by your leadership, your integrity, your organizational and managerial skills, your flexibility, your creativity, but above all, your commitment and caring of our Army family, of our families and our soldiers… so I’m confident that despite the fact we didn’t expressly prepare you for this job, you’re going to do well in it because you are well prepared for the job you’re about to undertake.”
After giving responsibility to Gardner, Walsh offered thanks to Maj. Gen. Francis, Deputy to the Commanding General William G. Kidd, Grewatz and others for their support of the garrison team and said he was proud to have returned to Fort Rucker to serve as the garrison commander.
“This is really a wonderful place, and it’s remarkable due to the people, the local communities, the civilians that work here, the soldiers and families stationed here, all make Fort Rucker a very special place,” he said. “The garrison team here is talented and award-winning, and it’s the exceptional people that make this team. It just reminds me that you can have the best equipment in the world, and that’s great, but at the end of the day, if you don’t have the best people, it doesn’t matter. We have the best people.”
He congratulated Gardner on taking over command, wishing him luck for the next two years.
“Congratulations on taking command of the best garrison of the United States Army,” Walsh said. “You’re certainly a right fit to lead this garrison. I know you’ll lead it to the next level. You’re in good hands, and you have a great team.”
Gardner called Fort Rucker “a special place” while sharing memories of his time at Fort Rucker as a flight student earlier in his career that have stayed with him.
“It feels good to be home,” he said. “It’s a special place, and we have a critical mission here. I accept that and I understand that.”
He said he “grew up” as an adult at Fort Rucker.
“These young officers, these young soldiers, they’re doing the same thing,” he said. “They’re growing up as adults. Our team’s going to be committed, more committed than ever, to make sure we take care of and provide the best support possible for our young sons and daughters, little brothers and little sisters.
“We’re going to make sure that they are ready for the near and future fight.”
Gardner said he was grateful for the opportunity to serve as garrison commander.
“It’s an opportunity that I am definitely not taking lightly,” he said. “It’s an opportunity and challenge that I acknowledge, and I commit all of myself in this mission to support Army aviation readiness.”
He said he will lead the garrison to never do any harm, always do as much good as possible and adhere to regulations.
“In two years, I look forward to standing here and telling you about how we as a small garrison were instrumental in setting the conditions for the future: for the future nature of training, for the future aircraft, for the future type of soldiers and families that are going to exist, live, work and play here at Fort Rucker,” he said. “Most importantly, I want to tell you about how we as a garrison… enabled Fort Rucker’s success of the Army’s achieving its Army Readiness objective, how we brought in the best and brightest, how we turned out the most highly trained combat aviators at a rate never before achieved and how we strengthen families who have continued to cherish their time at Fort Rucker and look forward to returning and paying forward to those who would follow them here.”