Garrison commander looks back on time on post
June 6, 2013
By NICK DUKE
FORT BENNING, Ga. (June 5, 2013) -- After two years in command, Fort Benning's garrison commander, Col. Jeffrey Fletcher, will transfer command 8 a.m. June 14 to Col. Michail Huerter during a ceremony in front of McGinnis-Wickam Hall.
The change of command will mark the end of Fletcher's most recent stay at Fort Benning, a place he calls home.
Fletcher was born at Fort Bragg, N.C., but grew up primarily in the Fort Benning and Columbus area.
He took command of the garrison in 2011, an opportunity he said was welcome, but unexpected.
"I was kind of surprised because initially the Army had selected me to take command of a garrison in Vicenza, Italy," Fletcher said. "Because of a number of different things that were out of my control, Fort Benning came into the scene. … When I first joined the Army 25 years ago, I couldn't wait to leave Fort Benning and get away from my hometown and be able to travel and see the world. Now, 25 years later, I couldn't wait to come back."
Fletcher's childhood ties to Fort Benning, coupled with his experiences during his military career, he said, has given him a unique perspective on how the installation has evolved over time.
"The installation has morphed from when I was a child and then a young officer stationed here," he said. "It was just a training environment, but now you sense the minute you enter the installation that Fort Benning is a strategic installation and the mission of the Maneuver Center of Excellence has strategic implications across not only the maneuver force, but across the Army at large."
When he took command, Fletcher said he was asked what he hoped to accomplish while leading the garrison.
"I distinctly remember being asked when I took command back in 2011 what my goals and objectives were, and from the outset, it's always been to be an advocate for Soldiers, civilians and Family members of the Fort Benning community," he said. "In hindsight, I'd like to think that I've done that in terms of just trying to make Soldiers and Families feel good about being stationed here at Fort Benning and about being a part of the Army team."
He said his time in command would not have gone as smoothly without the help of the other members of the garrison command team.
"It's almost like being the manager of an all-star baseball or basketball team," he said. "We have so many dedicated and professional team members within the garrison at Fort Benning that I think my job, more than anything, is just to allow those folks to do what they do best and put their talents to use for the community. When you have such a great team of Soldiers and civilians who work alongside you, it's easy to come to work in a good mood everyday, and that's been my experience here at Fort Benning."
Although Fletcher will transfer command to Huerter during a June 14 ceremony, he said his responsibilities have prevented him from really having time to reflect on the past two years.
"I've been so busy that I haven't had a chance to sit back and reflect, but a few of the highlights that immediately come to mind don't necessarily surface in a big way," he said. "It's kind of the small things where you get a response from a Soldier or Family that you helped in what may have been a small way to you, but was significant to them. … Those are the kinds of things, for me, that carry a lot of weight, and that's not to downplay some of the significant things that happen every day here at the garrison, but for me personally, it's just knowing that I made a difference in the lives of folks that will stay with me."
The hectic pace that has kept Fletcher from having time to reminisce is the same pace he has kept since taking command of the garrison.
After two years, he said that pace is starting to wear on him.
"I had a mentor of mine who told me that at the completion of your command tour, you should be completely drained in terms of making sure that you've given everything you possibly could have during that time in terms of supporting the mission and supporting the organization," he said. "I think I'm at that point. I feel like I'm running out of gas with the finish line in sight, but it's a good feeling because I can look back and say I was really able to put forth my best in terms of supporting the Fort Benning community."
Fletcher said he expects the people of Fort Benning to be extremely welcoming to Huerter.
"You've got a great team of folks here, and a great community that is going to embrace him 100 percent and set him up for success," Fletcher said. "Also, just have fun. At the end of the day, if the boss and the bosses are having fun, then everything is going to fall in line."
Fletcher will deploy to Afghanistan, where he will serve as an advisor to the Afghan Ministry of Defense.
"It'll be a challenging job, but I'm looking forward to it, and I feel like in some shape, form or fashion, the experience I've had here at Fort Benning is going to prepare me for that environment," he said.
However, no matter where his Army career takes him, Fletcher said Fort Benning will always hold a special place in his heart.
"I look forward to seeing everybody somewhere down the road, and I'll always be a fan of Fort Benning and feel like Fort Benning is going to continue to be home."