USAG POHAKULOA, Hawaii - Lt. Col. Eric P. Shwedo took command of U.S. Army Garrison, Pōhakuloa on July 10 during a brief ceremony here.

Shwedo succeeds Lt. Col. Rolland C. Niles who commanded the garrison for two years. A Special Forces officer, Shwedo comes to Pohakuloa from U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Fla.

Niles leaves Hawaii for Fort Hood, Texas where he will work as the Fire Support Coordinator for III Corps.

The ceremony also featured the assumption of responsibility for the garrison by Command. Sgt. Maj. Alan D. Higgs.

Kahu (minister) Daniel Kaniela Akaka, Jr. opened the ceremony with a chant and blessing in Hawaiian and praised Niles for his support of Native Hawaiian culture and programs.

"We're ever so thankful for all of the work and accomplishments of Lt. Col. Niles; for all that he's done for the commitments, for his family who have been here to support him for these past two years," he said. "We're grateful for his support of this land and our traditional culture of Hawaii."
Akaka said he looked forward to Shwedo's command.

"We offer him our support and blessings for this land of Pōhakuloa that it will always be one that is honored and respected as we prepare our men and women, the troops of our armed services; a blessing upon all."

Following Akaka's blessing Poochy Paulino, a friend of the command, performed a farewell hula and oli (chant) to honor the change of command.

"The oli that I'll be doing is asking permission to pass through, to pass on. In honor of today's change of command I offer this hula and this oli," Paulino said.

Paulino performed the hula and then paused and delivered the oli or chant.

The hula and oli complete, it was time for the passing of the garrison colors signifying the change of command. Niles handed the colors to Col. Douglas S. Mulbury, commander of USAG Hawaii who handed them to Shwedo.

Shwedo then passed the colors to Higgs and shared a few words that caused both to smile. With that Higgs assumed responsibility for the garrison.

In his remarks following the passing of colors Mulbury praised Niles for his dedication to mission accomplishment and his success, especially in completing ranges that provide Army and Marine units with realistic training facilities--the Stryker Battle Area Complex Range, Cooper Army Airstrip for unmanned aerial vehicles and several urban complexes.

"Lt. Col. Niles has commanded with distinction," Mulbury said.

Mulbury said that Niles has also excelled in community relations.

"Just as impressive are the partnerships Chris has established with our civilian partners all over Hawaii Island--the Director of Land and Natural Resources, Parker Ranch, Waiki'i Ranch, the Mauna Kea Management Board, civic leaders, education officials and the list goes on," he said.

"Chris has been the face of the Army here on Hawaii Island, engaging with the community, communicating the Army Story and listening to their concerns in an effort to be a good neighbor as we coexist in this special place."

Turning to Shwedo Mulbury said that he had all that it takes to be successful.

"I can also guarantee that if you do this job correctly it will be one of the most, if not the most, challenging and rewarding job you've had in your Army career…the staff at PTA need your leadership and guidance and the future Soldiers and Marines that train here need your vigilance and your leadership," Mulbury said.

Niles spoke next and said it had been an honor and privilege to serve as USAG Pōhakuloa commander and support the training of more than 20,000 Soldiers, Marines and other service members. He also cited the projects completed during his command.

"We have completed millions of dollars in projects that have improved training support to include an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle airstrip and a Military Operations in Urban Terrain site while nearly completing a Stryker range and a convoy-live fire range," Niles said. "We did all this during a very dynamic time."

Niles said the garrison's support was critical to the pre-deployment training of 25th Infantry Division units as well as several battalions in the 3rd and 12th Marine Regiments.

Niles praised the Pohakuloa staff and training units for their community outreach efforts.

"Our work building partnerships with the local community has been tremendous as well," Niles said. "Between feeding the homeless, working in the Veterans cemeteries, support to Habitat for Humanity and countless other service projects PTA employees and training units have been active in our community and I know you will continue these efforts."

Niles concluded with thanks to the USAG Hawaii leadership and staff.

"It has been challenging at times being on a separate island, but you continued to come through."

He also thanked the Pōhakuloa staff for its support to him and to the military men and women who trained here.

Niles saved his final thanks for his family for their support during his command and during the many moves, interesting hours and other obligations during his Army career.

"You have borne all and were supporting throughout," he said.

Niles offered a bit of advice to new commander Shwedo: "Always remember why we are here: the serviceman. What we do enables them to be prepared for their next mission and return home safely."

Shwedo was brief and said he looks forward to the opportunities and challenges of commanding Pōhakuloa. He also praised new garrison command sergeant major Higgs, saying Pōhakuloa is lucky to have him.

Shwedo said he wants to build on Niles' accomplishments.

"Chris it is evident that you were instrumental in the success of PTA and have set it on a clear path for the future," Shwedo said. "You have built many bridges across the Big Island and have made PTA the Pacific's premier training area."

Page last updated Fri July 13th, 2012 at 17:16