Col. Courtney Cote retired from the Army and relinquished management of the Program Executive Office for Aviation's Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Office to Col. Scott Anderson, Sept. 14.
The ceremony, held in Bob Jones Auditorium, began with the time-honored tradition of passing of the colors symbolizing the transition of authority from one leader to another. Brig. Gen. Thomas Todd, program executive officer for aviation, handed Anderson the UAS charter before officiating the retirement of Cote from military service.
"UAS is the most lethal weapons system on our battlefield today," Todd said. "You are doing amazing things for our country … provide us with the national security that we need, keep young Soldiers off the road when necessary and when they do go into harm's way, you provide them information they would never have had before. That's what gives us our decisive advantage over our adversaries."
Anderson joins PEO Aviation after serving in a joint assignment as the director of operational integration at the National Reconnaissance Office in Chantilly, Virginia. He has led tactical infantry units in both the 101st Airborne and the 3rd Infantry Divisions and has held acquisition officer roles throughout the Army. He is no stranger to PEO Aviation, having served as the product manager for the Tactical UAS Product Office from 2011 to 2014.
"We are connected to every domain … land, air, sea, cyber, space," Anderson said of his new team. "UAS is a capable combat multiplier and our capability is unlimited. Our best years are in front of us.
"I'm honored at the opportunity to lead you."
Following Anderson's remarks, Todd awarded Cote with the Legion of Merit for his leadership and professionalism. He also presented a certificate of appreciation from the president of the United States, letters from Alabama congressmen, a U.S. flag and other memorabilia commemorating his time with PEO Aviation in addition to his certificate of retirement.
Todd asked the audience what word comes to mind when he mentioned Cote's name: "leader, patriot, mentor, integrity, dedicated" were among the responses from the crowd.
"You have made a lot out of a great career," Todd said. "And you made a difference for our Soldiers. You found your calling, you did it well and you finished strong."
Cote's 28-plus year military career began when he joined the Army Reserve in 1987. In 1991 he was commissioned in the Army aviation branch. He has held command, staff and program management assignments during his career and served in various acquisition leadership positions throughout PEO Aviation before closing out his career as the project manager of UAS since 2014.
Cote said of the UAS team, "There has not been one thing that has been asked of you that you did not deliver on. Pure and simple. You delivered consequential capability when people needed it.
"I will always remember what you have done for me, and hopefully you will remember what I've done with you and for you in our service to our great country."