By James BrabenecOctober 4, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla., Oct. 4, 2019 -- Turtletown is a small city in the southeast corner of Tennessee known online for being six miles from Ducktown, Tenn. The town's small population and backwoods location attests to the idea that the Army offers all young adults from this country and beyond its borders a road to opportunity.
Accepting the colors during a change of responsibility (CoR) ceremony Oct. 4, in front of Taylor Hall, Fort Sill Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Russell Blackwell may have just become one of Turtletown's most famous former citizens.
He also has big shoes as he steps into the leadership position Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan Lutgens relinquished to conclude his 30-year Army career.
In an award ceremony, Col. Don King Jr., Fort Sill Garrison commander, said Lutgens was "probably the best CSM I've ever had. His impact and the things he's done on this installation have been phenomenal."
King then pinned the Legion of Merit on Lutgens' uniform for his "exceptional and meritorious service ... and honorable duty in positions of increasing responsibilities culminating as the garrison command sergeant major for the Fires Center of Excellence," according to the attention to orders narrative.
Lutgens spoke of his honor to serve and thanked the garrison staff and Department of Army civilians, contractors, and Soldiers here.
"We could not run this installation without you," he said.
King then presented Lutgens' wife, Grace, with the Public Service Commendation Medal for her service to the Army and the installation.
"Grace, if it wasn't for (you), I would not have had the opportunity to have Sgt. Maj. Lutgens as my command sergeant major (nor enjoyed) the successes and great times we've shared over the lasts 15 months," said King, completing the award ceremony.
The CoR began with the passing of the garrison colors, then King addressed all assembled and recognized the pleasant morning. "There's very few things that the garrison can't control, but one of the things we do control is the weather."
Honoring Lutgens, King said, "I want to thank you for everything you've done for the garrison team and for Fort Sill.
"Jon, from the first day I took command I knew we were going to be a great fit, even though I was very apprehensive, because who's ever been prepared for a garrison command?" he said.
The colonel said the two chose similar career paths leading up to their time together here.
"Most importantly I realized you were fully invested in this command and you worked diligently to take care of our Soldiers, civilians, and their family members to improve their quality of life, which remains one of our constant pillars of the garrison," said King.
He then welcomed Blackwell and his wife, LaFleur.
"Russ, I know you will excel and take the garrison to new heights, and I look forward to our time together," said King.
Lutgens then stepped to the podium with a detailed list of people to thank. He also addressed his appreciation to the military branch he volunteered to serve.
"Thank you to the greatest Army in the world and for all you've given me -- the honor, the discipline, the pride, the love of country, toughness, and dedication. I only hope that I've served you as well as you've helped me. Thank you for allowing me to serve with some of the greatest people I've ever known, and thank you to the greatest country a Soldier could ever serve."
Speaking to his wife, Lutgens said, "Grace, I love you and I'm forever in your debt." He shared these words to address her efforts to raise up a family and to attend to her career as an emergency room nurse during his active-duty career that saw the two of them apart for 17 of the 30 years he served.
Fort Sill's newest garrison CSM then stepped up to the microphone and opened by recognizing Jim Perez and Vic Rivera, two men who touched his life and contributed to his growth as a Soldier and an NCO.
"It means a lot to me that both you gentlemen are here to support the garrison today," said Blackwell, who left 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., where he served as the 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery CSM.
As a prelude to what Soldiers and civilians can expect from their new leader, Blackwell said he believes, "The best leadership comes when the leaders under you are empowered to do what they need to do."
Thanking his wife for her love and support, he said, "LaFleur and I are absolutely excited after 23 years to be back at Fort Sill and the Fires community. Col. King, I'm excited to step in as your right-hand man, to work with you and learn this thing called the garrison," he said.