By Franklin FisherJune 29, 2016
CAMP RED CLOUD -- Col. Brandon D. Newton, who began his military career as a young enlisted infantryman, later earned an officer's commission, and has since led combat operations in Afghanistan, assumed command of the U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud and Area I June 22 in a ceremony on the parade ground here.
With the bugle calls and martial cadences of the 8th Army Band sounding across the field, Newton replaced Col. Jack Haefner, who led the garrison for two years, and moves to a new assignment. Newton's previous assignment was with U.S. Forces Korea.
The garrison manages U.S. Army installations that support the 2nd Infantry Division/ROK-U.S. Combined Division, the bulk of whose combat forces are in Area I. The garrison's installations are widely dispersed throughout a region that puts it geographically at the "tip of the spear" -- a swath of northwestern South Korea that sprawls as far north as the Demilitarized Zone.
In damp humidity and under overcast skies, the morning's events went forward with troops and a contingent of garrison civilians formed up on the tree-lined Village Green parade ground. By the scheduled 11 a.m. start of the change-of-command ceremony, the mercury stood at 82 degrees.
Ranged across the field were the 8th Army Band; Soldiers from the U.S. Army Garrison Casey, which is part of USAG Red Cloud and Area I; the garrison's color guard; a contingent of the garrison's civilian employees in dark slacks and white shirts or blouses; and Airmen of two U.S. Air Force units stationed at Camp Red Cloud: the 604th Air Support Operations Squadron, and Detachment 1 of the 607th Weather Squadron.
Dr. Christine T. Altendorf, Director of U.S. Army Installation Management Command-Pacific, praised Haefner for his two years commanding the garrison. He'd assumed command in June 2014.
"A garrison commander must have outstanding collaboration, communication and organizational skills," said Altendorf, who was the ceremony's official host. "He must be both tactical and strategic. He must have technical skills and interpersonal skills. He must be a master of all trades. He must be somebody like Jack Haefner."
Area I is undergoing a gradual, carefully orchestrated transition in which the bulk of the Combined Division's forces will eventually move to a new home south of Seoul. The process is referred to as "transformation."
Altendorf said Haefner had struck the balance between managing transformation's gradual reduction in staffing and services in Area I, while avoiding adverse effects on the community.
He had helped ensure a "smooth exit" for the Casey Elementary School, which closed earlier this month, and had managed reduction of services to children and youth while still maintaining professional child care standards.
In addition, said Altendorf, Haefner and his team had arranged improvements to ambulance service in ways that "increased the speed and quality of care to the U.S. Soldiers, families and civilians" in Area I.
Haefner's leadership had also helped the garrison team reach "unprecedented heights," earning a 2015 Army Communities of Excellence Award, Altendorf said.
In his farewell remarks, Haefner thanked, among others, the rank-and-file members of the Area I workforce.
"Every commissary bagger, schoolteacher, network administrator, librarian, dishwasher, military policeman, Antiterrorism officer, firefighter, electrician, plumber, auditor, and driver -- you are all integral members of this team. Thank you."
Haefner also thanked Altendorf and Maj. Gen. Theodore "Ted" Martin, Commanding General of the Combined Division; members of the South Korean military, and local Korean officials and civic leaders, including Uijeongbu Mayor Ahn Byong-yong and Dongducheon Mayor Oh Sea-chang.
Haefner thanked the two mayors "for making Uijeongbu and Dongducheon my second home. Thanks also for your trust, confidence, and friendship as we worked on difficult issues together. Always together."
And he offered a word on his successor.
"The moment I met Col. Newton, I knew instantly that the Army made the right choice," said Haefner.
"Brandon is a great mix of coolness, experience, and passion to lead this wonderful garrison workforce and support the readiness and needs" of the U.S.-South Korean military alliance, 8th Army, and the Combined Division.
During his remarks as the new commander, Newton said the garrison provides "the power projection platform to assure our allies, deter our enemies, and if necessary, and most important in this particular part of the globe, to fight and to win."
"I am truly honored," Newton said at a later point in his remarks, "to have been trusted with this responsibility. I am committed to supporting and sustaining the 'Warriors' in Area I."
Shortly before the ceremony, Altendorf presented Haefner two medals, the Legion of Merit and the Korea Defense Service Medal. To Haefner's wife Toni, Altendorf presented a Commander's Award for Public Service.
In Iraq, Newton has served as a maneuver planner, operations officer, and squadron executive officer. He has served in Afghanistan as a deputy brigade commander, conducting combat operations in the western part of the country, and as a battalion commander, conducting combat operations in Kunar Province.
Newton was admitted in January 1990 to the Army's Green to Gold program at the University of South Carolina, and upon graduation in 1992 was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry branch. He is also a graduate of the Infantry Basic and Advanced Courses; Command and General Staff College; the School of Advanced Military Studies; and the U.S. Army War College.
His awards and decorations include: the Bronze Star Medal with three oak leaf clusters; Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters; Purple Heart; Army Commendation Medal with V device; National Defense Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Good Conduct Medal; Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign Medals. Col. Newton is a Senior Parachutist, and has been awarded the Expert Infantryman Badge, Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Ranger Tab.