CAMP CASEY, Republic of Korea - Lt. Col. Jon Gardner assumed command of U.S. Army Garrison Casey from Lt. Col. Edward D. Eldridge during a ceremony on Camp Casey's Carey Physical Fitness Center, July 27, 2015.
Gardner arrived from the Special Operations Command-Europe, where he served as the Military Information Support Operations Division chief, and Eldridge is scheduled to return to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and reunite with his family.
"The close of a command is almost a heart-wrenching prospect," said Col. Jack Haefner, the USAG Red Cloud and Area I commander, as he addressed Eldridge in his speech at the change of command ceremony. "In these two years, you've done much to advance and facilitate the mission of this longest-standing alliance."
The task of the garrison commander to deliver and integrate base support to enable readiness for a self-reliant and globally-responsive all volunteer Army was only simple on its surface, added Haefner.
"Who would've thought sewage, water, power, heating, air conditioning, pools, childcare, [and] ball fields could inspire so much passion? - until things don't work the way they are designed; but your measure as a leader, Eddie, was not that the power did not go out ... it was rather your professional and competent attitude always focused on continuous improvement and solving problems."
Since arriving unaccompanied in May 2013 to the Republic of Korea and in the midst of the day-to-day operations of an Installation Management Command unit in charge of the Casey and Hovey enclave, Eldridge oversaw complex operations - the historical inactivation of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team of the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division, two combined arms battalion rotations, and a brigade combat team rotation - all while earning his first degree black belt in Taekwondo.
After greeting the attendees, Eldridge acknowledged his wife for balancing work and taking care of their sons and representing the family during all their academic and athletic achievements. He also praised his sons for maintaining top academic honors while staying focused on their sporting feats.
Eldridge also thanked the Area I community for their support.
"I can honestly tell you I was a fish out of water; the infantry and Special Forces don't teach you about Installation Management Command," said Eldridge. "But the Area I team ensured that I was properly educated and poised for success in supporting the fine Soldiers, families and civilians that are our number one priority."
"Although I have enjoyed my extended family here in Korea, I look forward to going home to my wife and children so I can see their achievements first hand."
Additionally, Eldridge thanked his team for guarding IMCOM's reputation by building on team work, and maintaining a steadfast commitment to improving the lives of others.
"You have truly made USAG-Casey and Warrior Country a better place to work, live and train."
Eldridge concluded by thanking many of the Korean partners and contributors who maintained a strong relationships between the city of Dongducheon and the Camp Casey community.
Gardner also thanked Eldridge for the welcome he and his family received and wished him the best of luck.
"To my new Korean friends and those I will meet over the next two years, I look forward to continuing the partnership and cooperation our two countries have enjoyed for over 65 years," said Gardner, as he addressed the guests and his formation of Soldiers.
"I am truly humbled and honored to have been selected for this command," Gardner continued. "I entered the Army in 1990 as an E-1; ever since I became a commissioned officer in 1998, Pvt. Gardner has been standing in my shoulder watching me. I will do my best for the Soldiers, families, and civilians on and around this installation, and I hope I will make Pvt. Gardner proud."
"To his wife and daughter, both present," he said. "I want to thank you for accompanying me on another move and yet another adventure. I appreciate your understanding and support."
During the ceremony, Gardner's wife and daughter were each presented with a bouquet of yellow flowers by Staff Sgt. Russell Gilchrest, the Noncommissioned Officer of the Quarter, and Pfc. Pak, Song-Jae, the KATUSA of the Quarter, both of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, USAG Area I, which represents a blooming relationship with the Soldiers and members of the command and welcomes them to the "Land of the Morning Calm."
The USAG Area I color guard, led by Command Sgt. Maj. Pedro Guevara Jr., the USAG-Casey senior enlisted adviser, posted the Republic of Korea and the U.S. colors as the Eighth Army Band, under the direction of Staff Sgt. Phillip Andrew, conductor, played both nation's national anthems during the opening part of the ceremony and the Army's song to conclude the ceremony.