FORT LEE, Va. (June 25, 2018) -- The Combined Arms Support Command welcomed a highly decorated, culinary-rooted Soldier as its senior noncommissioned officer while celebrating the 33-year career of his predecessor during a change of responsibility and retirement ceremony June 20 at the Lee Theater.

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael J. Perry III was installed as CASCOM's top enlisted leader while the sustainment community paid tribute to the accomplishments of CSM Nathaniel J. Bartee Sr. during the full-to-capacity event hosted by Maj. Gen. Paul C. Hurley Jr., CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general.

Visiting dignitaries on hand for the occasion included Lt. Gen. Darrell K. Williams, the former CASCOM CG who now directs Defense Logistics Agency operations at Fort Belvoir. He was accompanied by his senior enlisted advisor, Command Master Chief Shaun Brahmsteadt. Also among the massive audience were command representatives from CASCOM's Ordnance, Quartermaster and Transportation schools as well as its Army Logistics University.

The event, designated as an outdoor ceremony for the change of responsibility portion, featured the traditional passing of the colors, speeches, an NCO-themed theatrical performance and award presentations.

During remarks about Perry, Hurley said the Youngstown, Ohio, native is the "optimal fit" for the position, noting he gained confidence in the CSM's abilities after speaking with him several times over the phone in calls to Iraq.

"He knew everything about the theater, and he had only been there about a year," Hurley said. "He knew things that took me two-years-plus to learn, so I knew a warrior like that was someone I wanted to bring to CASCOM."

When Perry took the podium, he first acknowledged his family and then thanked Hurley for selecting him for the position. He gave a nod to the many who were instrumental in his career, most notably a "Sgt. Maj. Cantrell," who saw his potential as a professional food service Soldier.

"I'm truly humbled and honored by the opportunity to continue serving our Army, CASCOM and the sustainment community," Perry said. "I look forward to building upon the strong foundation set forth by those who served in this position before me. I know I am joining a phenomenal team of leaders, Soldiers and civilians. I recognize the vast importance of developing sustainment training and doctrine to not only support our war-fighters but also to deter and defeat today's threats to our national security."

Perry most recently served as the Sustainment Directorate sergeant major for Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, headquartered in the Middle East. Prior to that he was the CSM for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Sustainment Brigade "Lifeliners."

While speaking about Bartee, Hurley created a bit of intrigue at the start of the ceremony by saying a few surprises were in store for the Quitman, Ga., native. The first was executed when the 392nd Army Band played "Ruffles and Flourishes" -- a piece that traditionally recognizes the senior commander, but Hurley allowed Bartee to take the honor, nudging him to step forward in his place during the number.

"There are certain times when the commander can defer honors to those who are more deserving," he explained during his remarks.

Bartee was marginally confused but visibly touched by the move. "We knew he would have absolutely refused (to do it), so we didn't tell him," said Hurley. "It was an absolute surprise."

Hurley, expressing his deep admiration and respect for NCOs, said Bartee epitomized how they should function, evidenced by the gratitude frequently showered upon him during their travels and command visits.

"I can say this," he said. "I have yet to attend a ceremony -- be it retirement, promotion or change of responsibility like this one -- where NCOs don't directly thank CSM Bartee for his help, mentorship and genuine interest in their careers and personal well-being. They go out of their way to say 'Thanks.'"

"CSMs, by their creed, give tough love, but CSM Bartee gives tough, genuine, caring love, and that makes all the difference."

Additionally, Hurley thanked the honoree for not only his professionalism but also for his friendship over the years.

"It's been a genuine honor to serve with you in multiple assignments," he said, "and I appreciate how you've been my battle buddy in tough times all throughout the Middle East and through the good and tough times here."

Hurley had an equal amount of praise for Bartee's wife, Pamela.

"You are an amazing mom," he said. "You're an incredible senior lady and (you have been) a wonderful partner and friend for (Hurley's wife) Kathy. You shine as an example of what right looks like. You could not ask for a finer first lady and command sergeant major's spouse."

Williams, who served as Bartee's commander at 1st Theater Support Command, Fort Bragg, N.C., and at CASCOM, continued the surprises. He led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to Bartee, who seemed unaware his former boss knew of the occasion. Williams went on to say partnering with Bartee in consecutive assignments were "two of the most important and consequential decisions that I made over my entire career."

Furthermore, Williams said, Bartee was as solid as Soldiers come and worthy of having his ear.

"CSM Bartee earned my complete trust and confidence, and I consider myself fortunate and honored to have served with a true battle buddy and outstanding professional," he said.

For all that was expressed, Bartee -- as is often the case -- did not have much to say.

"Thirty-three years," said the 51-year-old. "How do you put it all in one speech? I would tell you the good Lord ordered these steps."

Bartee went on to thank his wife, children and their extended family for continued support and encouragement; he singled out the first sergeants, instructors, platoon sergeants and drill sergeants for the work they do in preparing initial entry Soldiers; he made note of the CASCOM and Army garrison staffs; and he thanked the many who support the mission.

"Thank you," he said repeatedly.

The event's final surprise came to retired Sgt. 1st Class Pamela Bartee, who ended her career without a retirement ceremony because her husband was deployed during the occasion. Fulfilling that long-overdue tradition, the senior leaders presented her a U.S. flag as she stood alongside her husband. They both saluted, and she wiped away tears.

Bartee did not indicate what he plans to do in retirement.

CASCOM, as a major subordinate command of the Training and Doctrine Command, trains and educates Soldiers and civilians, develops and integrates capabilities, concepts and doctrine, and executes functional proponency to enable the Army's Sustainment Warfighting Function.