FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker welcomed its new garrison commander during a change of command ceremony July 12 in the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.

Col. Whitney B. Gardner assumed command of the garrison from Col. Brian E. Walsh when he accepted the unit colors from Vincent E. Grewatz, director of Installation Management Command -- Training, who officiated the event.

Gardner said he and his family were excited about the opportunity to lead at Fort Rucker.

"I've been blown away by the welcome we've received from the garrison team and everyone here at Fort Rucker," the new commander said. "I love coming through the gates at Fort Rucker, and I love hearing the gate guards tell me, 'Welcome home!' Having been away for so long and making that long trip from the Pentagon, to hear those words was very powerful. It feels good to be home -- it's a special place and we have a critical mission.

"I feel prepared, I've had a great onboarding, and looking around and based on my experience with the staff so far, we're in a great position and we've got the support of our mission commander," Gardner added. "Brian Walsh has commanded for the past two years and he built a really committed team. You've worked together to make it a world-class facility and installation. We're ready to go to work."

And that mission commander, Maj. Gen. David J. Francis, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, made known his support of the new commander.

"We have served together many times in the past, and if I had to handpick a person to come down and do this job, Whitney would be the one," the general said. "I look forward to serving and commanding with you. And to the Fort Rucker community and garrison, you have a great leader coming in to take the reins here today. I am fully confident that we will continue to build on the success that Team Walsh built for us here at Fort Rucker."

And Gardner intends to do just that, he said.

"Melissa and I didn't grow up as kids here at Fort Rucker, but what we did do is grow up as adults here," he said. "I'm going to remind myself of that every day. These young Soldiers here are doing the same thing -- they're growing up as adults. Our team is going to be more committed than ever to making sure that we take care and provide the best support possible for our young sons and daughters, and little brothers and little sisters. We need to make sure they are ready for the near and future fight."

He also spoke about the garrison staff and its importance to maintaining Aviation readiness.

"It's known that we have one of the most stable civilian workforces in the Army, and I see that as a huge strength," Gardner said. "And I want to continue investing in that workforce -- they are essential to our daily operations. But we also need to avoid getting stuck in the old ways of doing things -- we need to broaden our views and find better ways to solve complex problems."

He added that he is grateful for the chance to take on the Fort Rucker garrison mission of supporting and enabling Army Aviation readiness.

"We, as a garrison team, must take some simple basic actions," Gardner said. "We will always, one, do no harm -- we will make no decisions or put actions in motion that will hurt Soldiers, family members or the environment. We will always, two, do as much good as we can -- we will remain engaged, and we will look for opportunities to improve the quality of life and the quality of training at Fort Rucker.

"And, three, we will adhere to the regulations and policies that exist to support our Soldiers and families -- we will look for opportunities to improve those processes that enable the required power generation and combat generation and increase production of combat power, going forward," he said. "I'm thrilled to start this next chapter."

The IMCOM -- Training director took time to thank Walsh for his work over the past two years.

"(The Walsh command team's) greatest legacy won't be found in the repeated winning of the Army Communities of Excellence installation of the year award back-to-back, or the way they provided for the public safety of this installation and the safe training of this center, or the way they presided in partnership with neighboring communities over the ceremonies as we honor our heritage as a nation as a community," Grewatz said. "No, the greatest legacy of this command team will be the people and the partnerships they forged over the last two years, and on this account Colonel Walsh is a remarkable leader. He postured the garrison for continued success, and built a committed, responsive and agile garrison team capable of accomplishing the mission today and tomorrow."

And Walsh spoke about that Fort Rucker team, referring to it as talented and award-winning.

"You can have the best equipment in the world, and that's great, but at the end of the day if you don't have the best people, it doesn't matter," he said. "And we have the best people. And that's evidenced by the awards and what they produce here daily. Together our garrison team and community partners have produced some remarkable things, and those folks make this a great place to work, live and play.

"To the Gardners, congratulations on taking command of the best garrison in the U.S. Army," he added. "You're certainly the right pick for this garrison and I know you'll lead them to the next level -- you're in good hands and you have a great team."