By Gail Parsons, Fort Riley Public AffairsJuly 25, 2018
FORT RILEY, Kan. -- Under a blazing sun at Ware Parade Field, Col. John D. Lawrence relinquished command of U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Riley, to Col. Stephen Shrader on July 13.
The ceremony followed traditions of the post beginning with the command team taking their last ride together on horses of the Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard.
Brenda Lee McCullough, director, Installation Management Command-Readiness, was the reviewing officer for the ceremony. She rode in on Rifle. With her was Lawrence riding Olympic, Shrader on Apache, and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew T. Bristow II on Duke.
Following their arrival, a member of the color guard brought forward two bouquets of roses. Red roses were presented to Sheila Lawrence, wife of Col. John D. Lawrence. The red signifies the color of the heart and reflects the care she has shown to the garrison while standing by her husband's side.
Single red roses were presented to Col. Lawrence's mother-in-law, Charlotte Hart, and his sister, Pauline Lyons. His father-in-law, Robert Hart, and Lawrence's son, Nick, were each presented pocket knives.
A bouquet of yellow roses was then presented to Tiffany Shrader, wife of incoming Garrison Commander Col. Stephen Shrader.
"Yellow is the color of the new beginning and symbolizes her arrival as the new first lady of the United States Army Garrison, Fort Riley," said the narrator for the ceremony. "In time, Mrs. Shrader's rosebuds will blossom, as will her relationship with the Soldiers, civilians and their families."
As a final gesture of appreciation, Sheila Lawrence presented a basket of carrots for the horses and a bottle of bourbon was presented by Nick to the Soldiers of the Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard.
After the appreciations were given the ceremony officially started with the firing of Old Glory, a replica of an 1855 model three-inch ordnance cannon.
In his last official act, Lawrence accepted the garrison colors from Bristow. He then passed them to McCullough to signify a successful completion of command.
She passed the garrison colors to Shrader, who in his first official act, passed them to Bristow. With those brief moves, the change of command was complete and it was time for brief remarks to bid farewell to the Lawrence family and welcome the Shraders.
Farewell and welcome
Lawrence frequently shows a propensity toward modesty. He is quick to credit the team he led for the successes they accomplished while down playing his role over the last two years.
Maj. Gen. John S. Kolasheski, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general, was quick to put the credit for many successful tasks squarely on Lawrence's shoulders.
"There are few jobs in the Army as unique and challenging as commanding a garrison," Kolasheski said. "John Lawrence has met that challenge, ignored its difficulties and excelled beyond anyone's expectations," he said.
He spoke to an audience, including many civilians from outside of the post who have built relationships with Fort Riley under Lawrence's command.
A garrison commander has the unenviable task of managing the demands, expectations and desires of about two dozen agencies, all the Soldiers on post, their families, and the communities inside and outside of the gate.
"It takes a special officer to simply make it through command without inciting a revolt of some kind." Kolasheski said. "John is not just a special officer, he is truly a unique officer."
McCullough had similar words of praise and appreciation for Lawrence. She pointed out some of the difficult situations, which many people may not have been fully aware of because of the way they were handled.
"Col. Lawrence will tell you the many accomplishments he achieved during his command here at Fort Riley were due to the contributions of the installation team, and in many cases that is true," she said. "We stand on the shoulders of greatness; however, it was John's leadership that was the driving force for most of that success.
His two-year command was marked by transformation, innovation and challenges due to increases in mission support requirements and extreme fiscal restraint."
In the face of Department of the Army mandated reductions, Lawrence developed a plan of action that resulted in zero layoffs of the civilian forces.
True to his fashion, Lawrence praised and recognized the team he has led for two years.
"This team is continuity to the division," he said. "They synchronize the effort of 97 separate partners and they are truly the heart and soul of Fort Riley."
After recognizing all of the civilian employees and the city and county leaders from outside of the gates he turned to his wife to give additional appreciation where it belonged. Several women in the audience smiled and dabbed their eyes as they listened to Lawrence publicly affirm his love for the woman who has stood by his side for 25 years.
Simultaneously with the farewells to the Lawrence family, Shrader and his family were welcomed.
"Enjoy your time in command, it will go by in a blink of the eye," Lawrence advised Shrader. "After our short time together during transition, we couldn't be happier to leave this command in your capable hands and I know you will lead this garrison to new heights."
Kolasheski and McCullough echoed similar sentiments in their welcoming remarks.
"While we will miss the Lawrences, we welcome the Schraders," Kolasheski said. "I think the Army picked the right team for the job."
Closing out the ceremony Shrader took his turn at the podium. He expressed his thanks for a smooth transition and gave his commitment to following the example that was set before him.
"I am falling in on the great footprint of John Lawrence and what the garrison has already established over the last few years," he said.
Although this is his first time at Fort Riley, he has become somewhat familiar with the area through his wife who came here a year ago.
She has been immersing herself in the local communities and their children are enrolled in Geary County Schools.
"I can't say enough how awesome the community has been to my family who's been here without me for a year," he said. "I dropped them off last summer to go to Afghanistan. They have had the benefit of enjoying what the Flint Hills have to offer."
In his opening remarks he made a comment, which he is sure to repeat many times in the coming years, "I am proud to say, my name is Col. Stephen Schrader and I am a 'Big Red One' Soldier."