FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The new commandant of the U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career College assumed command of the unit on the same day as his 23rd wedding anniversary.

Brig. Gen. Stephen J. Maranian, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, recognized that fact when he thanked Col. Ross F. Nelson's wife, Jennifer, for sharing her husband during the ceremony where he assumed command from Col. Kelly E. Hines July 25 at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.

"This is a very special day, and I wish you both many, many more to come," Maranian said. "Colonel Ross Nelson is an outstanding leader with impeccable credentials as an Army Aviator and as an educator. He is a U.S. Military Academy graduate who has performed with distinction all of the leadership and technical positions you'd expect of a master aviator, including commanding the 1st Battalion, 212th Aviation Regiment at Fort Rucker.

"On the education side, he's completed every professional military education program up to the war college level," he continued. "He's also served as a trainer and coach for the mission command training program at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and as a professor of military science at the University of South Dakota. Along the way, he earned two master's degrees to go along with his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering that he earned at West Point."

And Nelson said he is ready to take on the challenge of leading the WOCC, and understands he's inheriting an elite organization.

"To the WOCC staff, cadre and family members, your work here truly touches all corners of the Army and you have a tremendous reputation," Nelson said. "Jennifer and I are excited to be joining the team, and cannot wait to meet and work with each of you. Strength in Knowledge, This We'll Defend."

Maranian reminded Nelson and everyone in attendance of the importance of the WOCC mission and its impact on the Army as a whole.

"This institution, the USAWOCC, is an immensely important command. It's the home of the Army warrant officer," he said. "It serves as the training ground for both warrant officer candidates and returning senior warrant officers, and is the proponent for common core warrant officer training across the Army.

"With more than 26,000 warrant officers serving in 17 Army branches comprising 67 specialties, this college impacts the Army in every corner of the world in which we serve," Maranian added. "The three professional military education courses taught here, along with the many warrant officer basic and advanced courses taught at branch schools around the Army, qualify the professionals of the Army Warrant Officer population. Today is as much, if not more, about the unit and that cohort than it is about the individuals who are assuming and departing command."

He then took time to recognize Hines and his wife, Shannon, for their efforts in leading the WOCC.

"Kelly and his bride, Shannon, have been the consummate command team serving our Army for 34 years as a Soldier, and leading the Soldiers of our Army, his branch and now of this school. Kelly has exhibited a passion for his Soldiers as he's excelled in the challenges of command," Maranian said. "He led the college to design, develop and implement a transformed educational construct to the Army's warrant officer cohort -- no small task.

"Intelligent, a visionary leader and an innovative educator, Kelly has skillfully fostered a disciplined training and educational climate that ultimately served to deliver the caliber of quality education needed to ensure that the current and future warrant officer cohorts are agile, adaptive and critical thinkers, and that they are and aspire to be worthy role models and leaders of character, confidence and commitment for our Army," he continued. "Kelly has proven himself to be a genuine steward of the Army profession. Because of his superb leadership qualities he's left a tremendous legacy of excellence carried forward by the many students of this institution that will have an impact on the Army for decades to come."

Hines, though, laid much of the credit for the unit's success under his leadership at the feet of the cadre and staff of the WOCC.

"These last two years since I took command, the cadre of the USAWOCC has trained over 6,000 students, with nearly 4,000 new WO1s. They accomplished this feat with less than a hundred cadre and did it in spite of an old colonel's constant injects and my opinions -- let that sink in," he said. "Where else in the Army can so few claim they impacted so many? I daresay not since the Spartans faced the Persians so long ago."

He added that while the education piece of the WOCC mission carried out by the Soldiers and civilians on the staff has a profound impact on the Army, it is the mentorship they provide to the students that is even more important.

"They established a legacy that will last as long as there is a U.S. Army, they did it without much recognition, they did it quietly and they did it professionally," Hines said. "Please join me in round of applause for the warrant officers, NCOs and civilians who are the heart of the USAWOCC."

The retiring colonel also thanked his many coworkers and family for their support throughout the years, and expressed his confidence in Nelson taking the unit forward.

"We've known y'all about 20 years and we've been stationed together a couple of times," he said. "I could not have personally picked anybody better to take this college from me. I am very happy you're doing it. You're getting an awesome group of people and I know you're going to outshine me right away."