By Ms. Marie Berberea (TRADOC)August 1, 2013
FORT SILL, Okla. -- Col. Brian Dunn, outgoing Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill chief of staff, might not have arrived at here with any kind of pomp and circumstance, but he left with a traditional retreat ceremony July 26 in front of McNair Hall.
The ceremony also welcomed his replacement Col. Tracy Banister, and included music from the 77th U.S. Army Band, flowers from the Field Artillery Half-Section and the Post Color Guard to decorate the forefront.
Dunn arrived at Fort Sill two years ago to the day, and he recalled the heat of that grueling summer.
"I looked down at the dashboard of my brand new pickup truck and I said, 'my God, my truck is broken' because the thermometer says 115 degrees. I open up the door, my dog's been in the vehicle for 12 hours. I said 'you want to come out?' He looked at me and said 'Not a chance.'"
So began Dunn's assignment here. His wife, Jennifer, and two sons, Thomas and Connor, joined him in a tour that he said he grew to love.
"I think that this assignment, and living in Lawton, Oklahoma and serving for the Soldiers and families of Fort Sill has been the most professionally and personally rewarding experience that I could ever ask for," said Dunn.
Dunn said being chief of staff wasn't always easy. He thanked many people for helping him along the way, and he gave special thanks to Alice Hacker, his executive assistant.
"The number of times I can't count where I've walked back into my office less of a man than I was before I went in, and Alice would just walk in with that perpetual optimism sayin' 'Hey, look on the bright side that butt chewing wasn't nearly as bad as the one you took yesterday, and chances are it won't be as bad as the one you're going to take tomorrow.'"
Dunn said all of his hard work wouldn't have been possible if he hadn't had great support at home.
"I've got to thank first of all Jennifer for everything. Nothing means more to me than being able to come home at the end of the day, any kind of day and to see your beautiful smile. And then to see the two little kids here, my two best friends, T.J. and Connor, look at me from around the corner of a room, disappear, come back without their shirts on, yelling 'It's go time.' I truly believe I'm the luckiest man."
Dunn said most of all he will miss the friendships, and Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, FCoE and Fort Sill commanding general, echoed that sentiment.
"It's hard to see any great leader go, but losing Brian is like losing your right hand. The chief is involved in every aspect of Fort Sill and Lawton. On a personal note, you've been a great chief of staff, but an even better friend," said McDonald.
McDonald presented Dunn with the Legion of Merit merit, and Jennifer with the Outstanding Civilian Service medal, a letter of thanks from Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and the Order of the Red Legacy.
"With every ending comes a new beginning. The chief of staff position could not be left vacant or the Fires Center would just fall apart. It requires a seasoned leader that is intelligent and adaptable and Colonel Tracy Banister is just the right person for that job," said McDonald. "In addition to commanding at every level in the field artillery, Tracy is a proven mentor and trainer. Tracy has fought, taught and led from the platoon to division level fully equipping him to take on the multi-faceted role that the chief of staff must fulfill."
This will definitely be a change of pace for the Banister family as they just left South Korea where he commanded the 210th Fires Brigade.
"We're coming from Dongducheon, South Korea, where Lisa and the kids were the first family to ever live on Camp Casey," said Banister. "We lived in about an 800 square-foot hooch for the past year, so this transition is going to be easy."
He said this is his family's third tour at Fort Sill and he looks forward to re-establishing old friendships and making new ones.
"To all of our units, directorates, schools and garrison: I'm glad to be a part of this team, and look forward to working with you as we turn some of these challenges into opportunities," said Banister.