First Reagan Test Site Director Replaces Last Commander
July 30, 2009
By Dan Adler
- Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll recently celebrated a unique change of command
- Because the position will not longer oversee troops, the incoming director will not be referred to as a commander
- LTC Col. Harold Buhl was last commander of RTS
- LTC John Eggert is the first director of RTS
On July 24, a first and a last occurred. Lt. Col. John Eggert became the first to be designated as Director of Reagan Test Site (RTS) and Lt. Col. Harold Buhl, Jr., became the last to be designated as Commander of RTS. Buhl turned leadership of the range over to Eggert at the Change of Responsibility ceremony. Because the position will no longer oversee troops, the site now has a director rather than a commander.
The event was attended by visiting dignitaries, including the Honorable John Silk, RMI Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bob MacCallum, the Charge' d' Affairs at the U.S. Embassy on Majuro and George Snyder, director, Sensors Integration and Test & Evaluation Directorate (SITE), U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command (SMDC/ARSTRAT).
Maj. Steven Ansley, acting as master of the ceremony, welcomed all audience members to the event and asked them to stand for the playing of appropriate music, including the jaunty tune associated with the 7th U.S. Cavalry of the Old West, "Garry Owen."
The entrance march, National Emblem, began and the official party of Eggert, Col. Frederick Clarke and Buhl entered the chapel and took their places on the stage. The entire assemblage remained standing for the playing of the national anthems of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the United States. The invocation was then given by acting Protestant Chaplain Eric Fenton.
After the invocation, Trish Buhl was honored with a gift of "fully-bloomed pink roses for her service and support of her husband, RTS and the community during her tour here," according to Ansley. "The color pink is a combination of red, symbolizing the respect and gratitude from the organization for the sacrifices she and her family accepted and conquered in support of the range. The clear color of sweat and tears makes the red fade to pink, thus the color of the roses." Trish also received a wut. Flower leis were given to her daughter, Reagan, and son, Matthew.
Yellow roses and a wut were presented to Paula Eggert. Ansley explained the significance of the gifts, "The color yellow is a sign of welcome and friendship dating back to the earliest days of the Army. The budding flowers symbolize a new beginning and the anticipation of relationships that will in time blossom fully."
Ansley then read aloud from the order by Lt. Gen. Kevin T. Campbell, commanding general, SMDC/ARSTRAT, appointing Eggert to his new position as Director of RTS. The transfer of the colors, signifying the change in RTS leadership, followed. Michael Butler, Chief Engineer RTS Test Directorate, Buhl, Clarke and Eggert participated in the flag transfer tradition. Following the transfer ceremony, Minister John Silk of the RMI took the podium.
Silk said it was an honor to speak to the assemblage on behalf of the government and people of the Marshall Islands. He continued that U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll had long played a role in the relationship between the United States and the RMI. Silk said the RMI has always been a partner in the security of both countries and that remains the same today.
Silk congratulated Buhl on competing a successful tour at RTS and wished him well in the future. He also welcomed Eggert to his new assignment and said the RMI looked forward to working with him during his tenure on Kwajalein. Silk concluded by saying he was sure the relationship between the two nations would only grow stronger in the future.
Clarke was the next speaker and praised Buhl for his role in leading RTS through 26 space missions, space surveillance, the reconnaissance support of more than 38 space launches, 55,000 space tracks and the imaging of more than 300 space objects.
While doing all this, "Harry also had to find the time to develop and begin execution of an RTS transition operation plan," Clarke said. He also noted that Buhl had increased the mission partner and customer base for the range including plans to bring THAAD and other Missile Defense Agency operations to Kwajalein.
"Harry has set the standards for transition across all measures of success," Clarke said. He went on to say that Buhl's leadership "has been a magnificent achievement." Clarke then thanked the Buhl family members, Trish, Reagan and Matthew, for their support. He especially thanked Trish for her contributions to the community through her work with the school and Child and Youth Services. He wished the Buhls the best of luck saying how much they will be missed by the community.
Clarke then turned his attention to the incoming director of RTS and his wife. He noted that Eggert and his wife, Paula, are no strangers to Kwajalein, both of them having lived and worked on island in the recent past.
"He [Eggert] brings a wealth of experience not only from his time here, but also in THAAD and Patriot/Meads missile systems." Clarke said that experience will enable Eggert to transition the range according to the current plans. He concluded his remarks by welcoming the Eggerts back to Kwajalein and that he looked forward to not only working with them but having them as part of the community once more.
Buhl then took the podium to give his farewell address to the audience. He began by saying how blessed he and his family have been to be on Kwajalein for the last two years. "I have to thank many people," he said. "I'd like to start with my 'starter wife' of 21 years, who has been with me through all the good and all the bad."
He said his job involved a lot of hard work and a lot of TDY, making it hard on his family. He thanked them for their support. He thanked the leadership of USAKA, especially Clarke, the Kwajalein Range Services team, MIT, SpaceX and other contractors both on and off island. He made special note of the many contributions of Dr. Ed Lyvers of MIT and Master Sgt. Daniel Perdue of USAKA.
Buhl said all that has been accomplished in his two-year tenure could not have happened without the teamwork and professionalism of all the players in the mission.He emphasized that everyone on island has a role in making missions successful and that includes every worker and laborer on Kwajalein and Roi-Namur. He said the people on Kwajalein and Roi have met every challenge thrown at them.
Buhl noted that when he first arrived on Kwajalein, there were many changes being made and while change is always disturbing, the people he worked with rolled up their sleeves and did their jobs. He said the days of planning missions two years out until "every bolt and every screw is in place is gone. The customers today want quicker action and we've been able to deliver it."
He made note of a recent mission that had been accomplished within 36 hours. He also said the improved reputation of the range has spread and more customers now want to take advantage of not just ALTAIR, but all of the many and varied sensors available to them here and because of that, the customer base has increased.
Buhl said that change will continue and he asked that the community and contractors give Eggert the same support and cooperation that he had enjoyed. He concluded by saying how much he and his family would miss the Kwajalein community.
Eggert addressed the assemblage and congratulated the Buhls for the service and contributions they have made to the range and to the community. He stated that he and his wife are thrilled and honored to be returning to Kwajalein.
"A lot has changed. Icons such as the '50s-era metal trailers and the PBQ have met their timely demise," he said. "But what has not changed is the remarkable talent on this atoll - a team of all-stars that gets the job done." Eggert noted that from the earliest days of missile testing, Kwajalein has been there to serve the country. "To be a part of that team and heritage to work with these men and women in accomplishing the mission is humbling and one which I look forward to with great anticipation."
He ended his remarks by thanking all of the military men and women who are out there serving the country, especially the noncommissioned officers.
Rev. Fenton gave the benediction using the ancient Irish blessing, "May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, may the sun shine warm upon your face and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand."
At the conclusion of the ceremony a reception was held in the Religious Education Building.