By Megan Locke Simpson, Fort Campbell CourierJune 19, 2015
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- Colonel David "Buck" Dellinger officially transferred garrison leadership to Col. James R. Salome in a change of command ceremony, today.
The well-attended ceremony on the Garrison Headquarters lawn brought together Fort Campbell Soldiers and civilian employees as well as community leaders eager to see the guidon passed to the incoming commander.
The change of command marked the close of Dellinger's three-year assignment. His new job as the 101st Airborne Division Chief of Staff allows him to continue serving a community that saw great changes during his tenure. He will work with Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell commander, who spoke during the ceremony about how Dellinger went above and beyond to serve the community despite fiscal constraints and other challenges.
"He was not only able to provide all the Fort Campbell units the support they were accustomed to, but he also found ways to save money, but still improve the quality of life for our Soldiers, Families and civilians," Volesky said.
The changes implemented under Dellinger's leadership included infrastructure improvements and modernization, centralizing Soldier support services at the Town Center and leading the transition Armywide to the Soldier for Life model. Health and wellness was a focus with the rollout of the Eagle Challenge Fitness Tour in 2013, which continues to provide competitive exercise options throughout the year for all skill levels. Meeting Army energy goals was a top priority as seen by the recent groundbreaking for the largest solar array in Kentucky. These improvements were all part of making Fort Campbell the "Best Soldier and Family Experience."
"When we walk, run or drive around our great installation, we see Buck's fingerprints everywhere, and we don't even realize it," Volesky said.
Volesky also credited Dellinger with creating stronger bonds with leaders in the surrounding communities, as evidenced in January when more than 2,000 people attended the Community Listening Session on post making it the best attended Armywide.
"That's the type of support and advocacy Buck has built during his three years in command," Volesky said.
The Soldier Support Center facility now services 8,000 customers per week, said Fort Campbell Human Resources Director Kent Shaw in an interview Tuesday, and will eventually comprise 17 different functions under one roof. Shaw credits Dellinger for allowing the facility to become a reality. The one-stop shop has increased productivity and accessibility and decreased wait times for Soldiers and their Families, Shaw added.
Dellinger also assisted the Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance program with obtaining a renovated facility that allowed transition services to consolidate into one location. The Pfc. Milton A. Lee Soldier for Life Center opened in November 2013. Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program Manager Harold Riggins said many of those who separated or retired from the military after the Soldier for Life model was implemented are now gainfully employed in professions ranging from the police force, to oil rigs and the federal government, or enrolled in a college or technical program. Fort Campbell's Soldier for Life program also leads the Army in Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) Act compliance.
"In the past three years, Col. Dellinger's initiative and efforts have resulted in the successful completion of over 13,000 transition appointments in support of the 15,000-plus Soldiers who left the Army from Fort Campbell," Riggins said in an interview Tuesday. "He leads from the front, with the Soldier's best interest in mind with his every decision."
Dellinger humbly re-flected on the position that brought him back to Fort Campbell in 2012 and thanked all those who helped him succeed and in turn make the installation a better place for Soldiers and Families to live and work.
"Garrison business is tough … But most days, you are helping a dedicated group of folks serve and protect and provide for an extraordinary group of Soldiers and Families," Dellinger said.
"From reception through retirement, we want every person who serves and lives in this region to realize that this is the best assignment that they will ever have in the Army. The way we treat each other is the means that make this experience a reality."
U.S. Army Installation Management Command Atlantic Region Director Davis D. Tindoll Jr. participated in the passing of the garrison colors and spoke to the crowd about Dellinger's role as a difference-maker for Fort Campbell where he managed a community of more than 24,000 individuals.
"Over the past three years, Col. Dellinger lived up to those expectations and then some," Tindoll said. "Under his command the garrison provided critical support to Soldiers deploying to Operations Enduring Freedom, Freedom's Sentinel, United Assistance and other destinations."
Tindoll noted the 44 percent decrease in crime over the past three years, and the 62 percent reduction in accidents as documented by the Fort Campbell Installation Safety Office. Not to mention that Fort Campbell received both a silver and bronze recognition in the Army Communities of Excellence program under Dellinger's leadership, making "a lasting impression on this installation," Tindoll said.
Salome comes to the installation from Fort Bragg, N.C., where he served as the Commander's Initiatives Group director, U.S. Army Forces Command. Salome previously served with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Abn. Div., as an operations officer. The West Point graduate comes to Fort Campbell with his wife, Patricia, and daughters, Marcella and Marianna.
"I can tell you firsthand, he is exactly the right officer to build upon the foundation that Buck and his team have built," Volesky said.
The new garrison commander looks forward to his new role as a city manager of sorts, overseeing the day-to-day operations at Fort Campbell.
"To the Soldiers, Families, Army civilians and community partners, we look forward to serving with you and [continuing] to make this the best Soldier [and] Family experience," Salome said.