In an emotional ceremony Thursday, Lt. Col. Natalie Lonkard handed over command of Fort Campbell's Warrior in Transition Battalion to Lt. Col. Chris Jarvis

Lonkard, a mobilized Kentucky National Guardsman, took over last April for Maj. Travis Burchett and was charged with getting the battalion moving after being stood up just eight months before.

"This day got here a little faster than I thought," said Lonkard, who became emotional during her farewell remarks.

The WTB has been a focus of the division for the past two years.

Commanding General Maj. Gen. Jeffery J. Schloesser has spared no expense or accommodation for the soldiers who are unable to be on active duty due to a serious injury or illness.

A couple hundred of Fort Campbell's wounded warriors were in attendance Thursday and thanked Lonkard for her efforts.

One soldier gave her a gift on behalf of about a half-dozen other wounded warriors.

Col. John Cook, commander of Blanchfield Army Community Hospital which oversees the operations of the WTB, credited Lonkard for bringing in new ideas and initiatives to help soldiers return to duty or transition into civilian life.

Cook said Lonkard's job was "as complex as it can be intimidating."

Over the last year, Lonkard has seen 325 soldiers return to active duty and another 300 go through a medical evaluation board to transition to civilian life.

At one point, there were 798 soldiers in Fort Campbell's WTB, making it the second largest in the Army.

Lonkard has also created a successful relationship with local universities.

About 1,500 soldiers in 2008 and another 900 this year have enrolled in college courses, Cook said.

Jarvis takes over after stints as chief of family medicine and chief of Soldier Health Services at Fort Campbell.

He's also deployed five times, three times to Afghanistan and once to Iraq and Bosnia.

"(Jarvis') credentials are impeccable as they come," Cook said.

Jarvis' remarks were brief and emotional.

He thanked his fellow soldiers and family for their "unwavering" support throughout his military career.

Lonkard will demobilize and return to her home in Frankfort, Ky., where she is "looking forward to getting back into her scrubs" at Frankfort Regional Medical Center.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16