Col. Boehm appointed 26th commander of USAKA
June 29, 2012
In a traditional U.S. Army change of command ceremony, Col. Joseph Gaines relinquished command of U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll to Col. Shannon Boehm. The ceremony took place June 27 at the fixed wing hangar.
William White, master of ceremonies, welcomed distinguished guests and members of the community to the ceremony. The official party of Boehm, Gaines and Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, commanding general, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, were announced as they marched into the hangar.
All remained standing for the playing of national anthems of both the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the United States.
Protestant Chaplain Jon Olson then read the invocation.
"We thank you for the leadership of Col. Gaines and we ask that you bless him as he transitions into his retirement," Olson said. "We thank you for his years of service to our country. We also ask that you bless our new commander, Col. Boehm, his wife Jeri and family. May his leadership strengthen our community."
Sgt. Jeffrey Satterwhite presented a dozen red roses and traditional Marshallese wut to Gaines' wife, Dianne Reed. Capt. William Mills presented a dozen yellow roses and wut to Boehm's wife, Jeri. A wut and lei were also presented to Boehm's daughter, Cassandra, and lei to his son, Jacob.
White continued saying, "The change of command ceremony is a time honored tradition transferring total responsibility, authority and accountability from one commander to another." The key of the change of command is the passing of the unit's colors. Even though unit personnel come and go and commanders change, the colors remain. Transfer of the colors represents the transfer of responsibility."
The official party rose for the exchanging of the colors. Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Nustad handed the colors to Gaines, who then handed them to Formica. This signified the end of Gaines' tenure as USAKA commander. Formica then handed the colors to Boehm, signifying the beginning of his tenure as USAKA commander. Boehm then passed the colors back to Nustad for safekeeping, who placed the flag back in the stand.
The official party was seated as the first guest speaker, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Martha Campbell, was announced and stepped up to the podium.
"Col. Joseph Gaines has been a key ally, successfully promoting USAKA's critical mission while actively engaging with our valued partners in the Marshall Islands," she began. "[Kwajalein's] leaders and officers have been attuned and sensitive to the needs of the local population, providing emergency assistance, promoting education, supporting health services and working to assist the RMI with its goals of self sustainability and economic independence. The officers may change, but USAKA's commitment to excellence in all fields has continued unabated."
Campbell also welcomed Boehm and his family to the RMI.
"You will quickly find yourself falling in love with its beautiful weather, pristine waters and welcoming people," she said.
The Honorable David Kabua, RMI minister of health, representing the president of the RMI, took a moment to reflect upon Gaines' contributions to the RMI over the past two years and to welcome Boehm and his family. He proclaimed deep appreciation and gratitude toward Gaines from President Christopher Loeak and the Marshallese government for all that was done for the RMI in the past two years.
A brief list of humanitarian assistance and improvements under Gaines' command was read aloud, including aid during water shortages, solar panels for the schools, assistance during the dengue fever outbreak and the extraction of unexploded ordnance found on Ebeye school grounds.
To Boehm, Kabua said, "The RMI government is thoroughly committed to strengthening the partnership between our two countries. We look forward to working with you."
Formica then gave his remarks to outgoing commander Gaines, and USAKA's 26th commander, Boehm. He highlighted some of Gaines accomplishments during his tenure as USAKA commander.
"First and foremost, Gaines worked closely with Campbell and the embassy staff to nurture and sustain an excellent relationship with the government officials and the people of the RMI. His difficult decisions during the complex budgetary process resulted in the decision by the Secretary of the Army to realign USAKA base operations under Installation Management Command," he said. "In November 2011, RTS executed the first ever successful test of the advanced hypersonic weapon. All along, you've made the right decisions, Joe, to provide service and support while better aligning our operations here at USAKA with the Army standards and processes. All the while, [you continued] humanitarian efforts on behalf of the people of the RMI."
To Boehm, Formica said, "While this command will certainly be different than anything you've ever done, you bring unique capabilities and experiences that will serve you well in this command and here at USAKA."
Gaines addressed the Kwajalein community one final time. He said that while he was busy enjoying the beautiful weather and island life here at USAKA, he was also busy running multiple tests and missions at the range.
"The pace here has been unbelievable. The number and variety of tests we've successfully supported has been nothing short of amazing," he said.
While Gaines said he will remember all his challenges and accomplishments here at USAKA, what he said he will remember most are the people. He thanked a long list of people who have supported him both professionally and personally, including his USAKA staff and the Kwajalein Range Services leadership team. He thanked the RMI government for their hospitality and willingness to work with USAKA.
Boehm then addressed the Kwajalein community for the first time as USAKA/RTS commander. He began by saying in his 23 years of service, he has never been to a place as astonishing as Kwajalein. He said the beauty of Kwajalein Atoll, and the significance and complexity of the work done here at USAKA blew him away.
To Formica he said, "I promise to you to do my upmost best to take off where Col. Joe Gaines and his team have left [off]."
He said he looks forward to the challenges ahead. To his new staff, he said, "We will embrace the challenges ahead together and I have no doubt that we will succeed."
A reception was held after the ceremony. Attendees welcomed Boehm as the new USAKA commander, and bade farewell to Gaines.