Hunter Garrison Commander says good-bye
May 19, 2011
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. - It's obvious that Lt. Col. Jose Aguilar enjoys his work at Hunter Army Airfield and the people around him. He smiles often during the course of a day as he conducts business with Soldiers and Civilians. In the wake of his two-year command and a feverish work schedule that ends June 23, he leaves behind new and improved facilities and programs and a debt of gratitude from those he touched inside and outside the gates.
When asked what he considers the rewards and challenges of the job and what made him effective, he was quick to say "people;" getting to know them, caring about them and networking with them.
"It's the 'informal threads that connect people,' Lt. Col. Aguilar said. "That personal contact makes a difference in relationships because it shows people you care. When they know that, you can cut through the red tape and often work off-line to get things done.
"You have to get out into the community to get to know people and learn how things work. That may seem time consuming to some, but for me, a handshake is a lot more effective than an email."
Lieutenant Colonel Aguilar credits three Civilians as mentors who taught him how to get things done through their network of friends and acquaintances. Those three include: Glenda Johnson, the Hunter Garrison secretary, who he calls the backbone of the garrison, due largely to her network of friends and acquaintances; Chairman Pete Liakakis, the Chatham County Commission chairman, who conducts an aggressive schedule interacting with his constituents; and Dr. Bill Cathcart, an involved community leader and avid military supporter. Aguilar said the three interact with those around them on a regular basis and do a great job passing and receiving information. The three inspire him to do the same in his relationships as commander.
Lieutenant Colonel Aguilar said he's proud of those relationships and the mutual support he has with tenant units on Hunter, including the 3rd Battalion, 160th Aviation Regiment, a special operations unit at Hunter, and the unit's commander, Lt. Col. Kirk Keepers.
"As a tenant unit at Hunter Army Airfield, Jose always incorporated us into the garrison plan and made us part of his Hunter Team, said Keepers."
Outside the gates, Dr. Thomas Lockamy, Chatham County School superintendent, is also a team player and helped the commander champion a new elementary school on post.
That effort will be realized in the fall when Pulaski Elementary School opens for 640 military and civilian pre-kindergarteners through fifth graders. It will feature 38 spacious classrooms, an 8,000 square foot physical education facility, a 7,700 media center and more.
Plans are recently underway for the Savannah STARBASE Academy, an educational program sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, to be located on Hunter. The school will raise the interest and improve the knowledge and skills of at-risk youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to meet the advanced technological requirements for the Dept. of Defense.
Another accomplishment for Aguilar is his input into the DeRenne Avenue Project that includes an overpass that re-routes traffic and clears up congestion at the intersection of Montgomery Street and DeRenne Avenue.
Plans have also begun on a new facility on post to house the Emergency Operations Center for Chatham Emergency Management Agency since Hunter has some of the highest ground elevation in the city. Clayton Scott, CEMA director, said he appreciates Aguilar's efforts to push the approval of this initiative forward.
"The partnership between the local and federal government is important," said Scott. "Constructing the new center on Hunter demonstrates how the two entities work together for the safety of the military and civilian communities."
Other civilian relationships in the community have been strengthened by Lt. Col. Aguilar, including one with Skidaway Island volunteers who operate The Landings' Military Family Relief Fund. Since it originated in 2007, the group has donated more than $642,000 to service members in Coastal Georgia. Members of the group have enjoyed the relationship with Lt. Col. Aguilar, according to Lou Molella, LMFRF president.
"... Lieutenant Colonel Aguilar is our champion," said Molella. "When we had a problem, a question, or a need, he was always there for us. His warm personality, accessibility, and polite manner, was never mistaken for anything short of straight answers, sound guidance and direction. If one of us was sick, Jose found the hospital. If one of us attended a function at Fort Stewart or Hunter and Jose was there, he found us."
After the Hunter Army Airfield Change of Command ceremony June 23, Aguilar's friends will find him at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, as the Engineer School chief of staff. He and his Family will be making their way into the hearts of new contacts, and Lt. Col. Aguilar will take on his next challenge - learning how to be effective in his new job in a new environment and community.
"Our community has been blessed to have him," Molella said. "I will personally miss him and his beautiful wife Suzanne. It will hurt when they leave."