By Robin Brown, Sentinel editorJuly 28, 2008
On historic Fort McPherson's Hedekin Field, where the Georgia militia once drilled and German prisoners of war were interned, women carved a new line in the installation history as Col. Deborah B. Grays assumed command of the U.S. Army Garrison from Col. Marguerite C. Garrison during a change of command ceremony held Tuesday. This is the third time in the installation's 123-year history that a woman has taken the helm. "It's a proud moment for me to witness the third woman and first African American to lead this command," said Shari Nettles, post historian and community relations officer for the USAG public affairs office. "As the crowd seated along the parade field witnessed this historic event, I thought of the past leaders who have stood on the same reviewing stand where Col. Grays stood today, from Gen. Douglas McArthur to former President Franklin D. Roosevelt to former Secretary of State Colin Powell and now her ... what a moment in history," Nettles said. Her presence signifies the changes in acceptance the world has made throughout the years, said Holly Mills, assistant, Equal Employment Office. "She will make an imprint in today's history books." The change of command ceremony is rooted in military history dating back to the 18th century during the reign of King Frederick of Prussia. During that time, organizational flags were developed with color arrangements and symbols unique to each particular unit. Soldiers would dedicate their loyalty and trust to their flag and the unit it represented. The individual assuming command would receive the unit flag in front of the unit, so all could witness their new commander assume his leadership du-ties. He who controlled the flag also controlled the soldiers and their allegiance. Society can now say she who controls the flag also controls the soldiers and their allegiance. "When I found out six months ago that Grays was going to be your commander ..." Garrison said, "I was so excited because I thought the Army could not choose any better a person to be your garrison commander. She has the credentials. I am convinced, Deb, that you will take (the command) to greater heights." As Garrison leaves for an assignment in support of the Multinational Forces-Iraq, Grays will continue to prepare Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem for Base Realignment and Closure. "I truly look forward to this new journey in our lives," said Grays. "There is no greater honor to me than commanding. Today starts the clock. As we begin positioning ourselves for transition, the challenges that we face should be laced with upholding the highest quality of service that our Soldiers, Families and Civilians expect and deserve. You have my commitment. Together, together, only together can we continue the posture for change."