FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Soldiers and civilians of the Air Traffic Services Command and the 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group welcomed their new commander during a change of command ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum June 25.
Col. Jason T. Cook assumed command of the units from Col. William B. Garber III during the ceremony that was held in the museum to a limited number of attendees and broadcast over Facebook Live.
Lt. Gen. Leopoldo Quintas Jr., U.S. Army Forces Command deputy commanding general, officiated the event where the unit colors were not passed because of COVID-19 concerns, but where the incoming and outgoing commanders just switched positions in the formation.
Quintas thanked Garber for his efforts in leading the unit, and the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence leadership and Fort Rucker community for their support of the two units, and also welcomed Cook to the “unique” ATSCOM and TAOG team.
ATSCOM and the 164th TAOG “are incredibly important organizations for both the Army and our joint partners,” the general said. “Both are brigade-level units with significant missions, but they share only one commander. This is unique across the 200,000-Soldier-strong Forces Command that we have only one command within it that has this kind of command relationship.
“Jason is one of our Army’s premier aviators and leaders,” Quintas continued. “He possesses the right blend of operational and technical experience to lead this unique team for the Army. I have no doubt that Jason is exactly the right leader to take both of these commands through the challenges that await in our future.”
He added that Cook has large footsteps in which to follow in.
“For the past two years, we could not have asked for a better commander than Will Garber,” Quintas said. “A consummate professional, and an engaged and energized leader, Will and his team provided critical airfield support to exercises and real-world operations for active and reserve components across this planet.
“The ATSCOM team administered 16 FORSCOM aviation resource management surveys, 18 quality assurance evaluations of Army air traffic control facilities worldwide and three culminating training events for units deploying to the fight,” he added. “These inspections and evaluations ensure the standardization and safe operation of Army tactical units and facilities, and dramatically increase the operational readiness of air traffic services for the U.S. Army.
“In the midst of these activities, the 164th TAOG also deployed two airfield operations battalions sequentially to the AFRICOM area of responsibility,” Quintas said. “These battalions made an immediate impact to numerous airfields by mitigating risk and increasing the capabilities of each airfield to project airpower. Additionally, these battalions provided air traffic control services in congested airspace, assisted in airfield design, protected aircraft from wildlife, aided in runway and taxiway repairs, and removed obstacles enabling the safe operation of all aircraft. For all of these accomplishments and many more, and on behalf of the FORSCOM commanding general, Gen. Mike Garrett, I say ‘thank you,’ to Will Garber and his team. Congratulations on a job very well done.”
Cook also thanked Garber and his team “for a great takeover,” he said. “You’ve really set me up for success.
“I feel very blessed to join and lead the ATSCOM and TAOG team,” Cook added. “These are outstanding units whose worldwide support to joint Aviation operations is essential. To General Garrett and General Quintas, thank you both for your trust in me to lead these great Soldiers and civilians. My family and I are thrilled to be back at the Home of Army Aviation. In the past couple of years, I have sorely missed the sound of Apaches flying over every day.”
He added that he looks forward to the work facing the ATSCOM and TAOG team in the next few years.
“I look forward to working with you all and providing the best air traffic services possible, and helping to advance Army Aviation readiness, capabilities and modernization,” Cook said. “To the outstanding ATSCOM and TAOG Soldiers and civilians, those here and particularly those who are deployed and recently redeployed, thank you for your continued honorable service to our nation. I want you to know that I feel very proud to be a part of this unit, and I promise you the best leadership and service I can give you over these coming years.”
Garber thanked FORSCOM, USAACE and Fort Rucker leadership, his family, and the Soldiers and civilians of the ATSCOM and TAOG team for making his time leading the units such a success.
“When tasked to deploy two battalions to Africa, I was inspired by the Soldiers’ response, all of them, they said, ‘Put me in coach, don’t leave me at home,’” he said. “I know that our American way of life rests in good hands when every Soldier in the formation is ready to move toward the sound of gunfire versus staying at home on the couch – that is motivating.
“We certainly will not forget Spc. Henry “Mitch” Mayfield (TAOG Soldier killed during an attack in January) who imbued the brigade motto, Here Am I, Send Me,” Garber said, adding that Mayfield was “a valiant Soldier who tasted death in youth, so that liberty might grow old.
“Jason, it’s comforting to pass the reins to such an accomplished leader, and I know you and Jocelyn and rest of your family will undoubtedly enjoy your time at Fort Rucker,” he said.