McALESTER, Okla. -- America's premier bomb and warhead loading facility welcomed a new commander during a change of command ceremony at the industrial base's headquarters building here, June 12.

Col. Shane M. Upton assumed command of McAlester Army Ammunition Plant from Col. Joseph D. Blanding during the traditional passing of the unit colors, performed in front of more than 250 guests, family members and employees.

Upton most recently completed the Advanced Strategic Leadership Studies War College program at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he earned a master's degree in Strategic Studies. After two years commanding MCAAP, Blanding's next assignment will be as assistant chief of staff for logistics (G4), U.S. Army Central Command at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

Brig. Gen. Michelle M.T. Letcher, commanding general, Joint Munitions Command and the Joint Munitions and Lethality Life Cycle Management Command, headquartered at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, served as host and for the ceremony.

"As the leader and commander of McAlester, Col. Blanding has believed in and focused on the mission of McAlester and has benefitted from input from McAlester's leaders and workforce to help him do his best for this installation," said Letcher. "The greatest testaments to your tenure are the MCAAP employees you championed, the reform efforts you initiated, and the readiness you delivered."

The general also commended Blanding and his wife Tina, for keeping the Army tradition alive and well in their own family. The Blandings have two sons -- one serving as an Army infantry non-commissioned officer, and another who is a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Blanding said that before he arrived in McAlester two years ago, he had never been to Oklahoma and didn't quite know what he was getting into. "I had no notion then, what kind of organization this was, driven by a civilian workforce, quietly producing the munitions our warfighters demand, day-in and day-out, without much fanfare," said Blanding, "But, today I do. MCAAP is a resilient workforce capable of overcoming any circumstance."

He praised Oklahoma's national, state and local elected officials and their staffs for their support, the local community for embracing his family, Joint Munitions Command and joint service partners for allowing MCAAP to grow its capabilities in support of the nation's warfighters, MCAAP employees for what they do daily.

He saved his final comment for his successor.

"Shane, welcome to McAlester! You have a great mission, a great organization, and great people to accomplish it. We wish you, Jennifer, and the kids, as much enjoyment during your tour as we have had here."

Upton thanked Brig. Gen. Letcher for the opportunity to command MCAAP, and the Blandings for welcoming him and his family into the fold.

In closing, Upton acknowledged MCAAP's position within the U.S. Army Materiel Command's organic industrial base. "I look forward to leading this great organization of professionals," he said.

Upton is originally from Gibson City, Illinois. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1997 upon graduation from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) with a bachelor's degree. Upton commanded the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant, in Independence, Missouri, from 2014 to July 2016, and subsequently served as the logistics officer for the 3d Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Distinguished guests in attendance included Mayor of McAlester John Browne;
State Senator for Oklahoma's 7th District, Larry Boggs; State Representative for Oklahoma's 17th District, Jim Grego; State Representative for Oklahoma's 18th District, David Smith;
Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army, Kevin Offel; McAlester City Manager, Pete Stasiak;
McAlester Economic Development Manager, Kirk Ridenour; Pittsburg County Sheriff, Mr. Chris Morris; U.S. Senator Inhofe's Field Representative Jared Ward; U.S. Senator Lankford's Field Representative, Caleb Cochran; U.S. Representative Mullin's Military and Veteran Representative, Jason Self; U.S. Representative Mullin's Chief of Staff, Michael Stopp;
Executive Director, Oklahoma Federal Executive Board, LeAnn Jenkins.

McAlester Army Ammunition Plant is the Department of Defense's premier bomb and warhead loading facility, and is one of 17 industrial facilities within the Joint Munitions Command. It is vital to ammunition stock management and delivery to the joint warfighter for training and combat operations.