WOCC welcomes new commandant
May 8, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 8, 2014) -- The Warrant Officer Career College welcomed a new commandant during a ceremony at the U.S Army Aviation Museum May 2.
Col. Garry L. Thompson, incoming WOCC commandant, assumed command from Col. Stanley O. Smith during a change of command ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum, and said he found it hard to contain his excitement for the opportunity to lead.
"It's hard for me to get this smile off of my face from all the excitement," he said. "I truly believe that to lead is to serve, and my promise to (the Soldiers of this college) is to serve you, and together we're going to roll our sleeves up and we're going to make this organization even better than it is today."
Thompson is no stranger to the installation, serving as the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker G3 before accepting the position as the WOCC commandant, and has held numerous leadership positions throughout his Army career.
He is a distinguished military graduate commissioned into the Army as a second lieutenant in 1989, and began leading as a platoon leader, company executive officer and battalion assistant S3 when he was assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C.
Thompson joined the Aviation Branch in 1993 where he continued his leadership career, serving in multiple continents from a company commander in Korea earlier in his career, to serving as the senior adviser to the Iraqi army aviation chief while deployed to Baghdad.
Although he's held a host of leadership positions, his new post as the WOCC commandant is one that Thompson said he was eager to start, and owed a lot of his inspiration to lead to two warrant officers: retired CW5 Stephen Knowles, who was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in 2007, and CW4 Willie Ruf, after whom Ruf Avenue was named.
"I think it more than appropriate to acknowledge (these) two legendary warrant officers who have both impacted my life," he said. "Many of you know that Steve was the first warrant officer of the Aviation Branch. He was like my big brother when I was a lieutenant and he showed me exactly what a being a professional meant.
"And although Willie is no longer with us, he's up there looking down and he's not at a loss for words," Thompson continued. "For those of you who knew Steve and Willie, they are what I think are the epitome of what a warrant officer should be. I truly don't think I'd be here today without the impact they both had on my life."
Brig. Gen. Christopher P. Hughes, Combined Arms Center Leadership, Development and Education deputy commanding general, was on hand to preside over the ceremony and pass the unit colors from the Smith to Thompson, and expressed his confidence in the new commandant because of his willingness to lead.
"Garry, you now assume the duties of the commandant and I know this is something you wanted to do … and it's a great organization that gets a leader who says, 'I want to be there,'" said Hughes. "When somebody says they want to be there, they have the credentials to be there, they have the passion and drive to be there -- the only thing that can come from that is an incredible command climate, an incredible learning environment and a place that somebody like me would want to work."
Hughes said he knows that Thompson and his wife, Mary, will make an excellent command team and looks forward to the leadership they will both provide to the WOCC.
"You two … are the epitome of exactly who and what we want to have here," said the general. "You two are the role model, so stand up and be that role model so that these young men and women here can emulate you as they continue in their careers."
Hughes added that he believes the value of ceremonies, such as the change of command, are meant to publicly highlight the Soldiers of the unit, as well as the incoming commander.
"This further gives us an opportunity to honor those Soldiers and Families of this school," he said. "Those who educate and prepare these Soldiers for the future -- a sacred and moral responsibility that those of us have in the education arena of the Army.
"A unit's colors are a constant reminder of the thousands of Soldiers and Families who have attended this school, and gone on to defend this great nation and our exceptional Soldiers," the general continued. "We must periodically take time like this to reflect and honor those who have gone before us, and those who have trained and educated them like the faculty we have here."