FORT HOOD, Texas - After two years of serving under her leadership, the 48th Chemical Brigade bid farewell to Col. W. Maria Bochat and welcomed Col. Alexander Lovasz during a change of command ceremony in the West Fort Hood Physical Fitness Center here May 20.
“To the Spartans, it was an absolute honor to be your commander,” Bochat told the Soldiers standing before her. “I present before you, the only operational chemical brigade in the United States Army. You are one united team with a single objective – protect the nation.”
During the traditional passing of the colors, Bochat, outgoing commander, passed the unit colors to Brig. Gen. Antonio Munera, commanding general of 20th Support Command (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives), who, in turn, passed the colors and their symbolic responsibilities to Lovasz.
The passing of the colors is a time-honored tradition, with the colors representing the rich heritage and history of the unit. As the incoming commander accepts the colors, the new leader is trusted with bringing unity to the formation.
Munera, who served as host of the ceremony, said he was honored to witness one of the Army’s greatest traditions, for one of the Army’s most unique brigades.
The brigade, which is spread across seven installations, is the only one of its kind within the Army, with a mission to support military forces by discovering, countering, and neutralizing chemical, biological or nuclear threats.
“Nobody else can do what you do,” Munera told the troops in front of him. “You exist to enable the lethality of others.”
After the passing of the colors, Bochat thanked her former troops for making her look good. She said that while it may not have always been easy, it was always rewarding.
“If anyone says that I had a successful command, I can honestly say that my command was only successful because my Soldiers cared,” she said. “They cared for each other, they cared for the mission and they cared for themselves. Those Soldiers – you – understand that people matter.”
She admitted that the command was no easy task, as a select few of her Soldiers caused her to raise her eyebrows, elevate her blood pressure and even caused sleepless nights. Despite the stressors of the position,
she said her Soldiers were always in her heart and her mind, because she cared about each and every one of them.
“I survived those raised eyebrows, elevated blood pressure and distracted sleep,” she added. “And as the saying goes, ‘What did not kill me, made me that much stronger.’”
Bochat is heading to the Republic of South Korea to serve as chief of staff for the 2nd Infantry Brigade.
Lovasz, who last served as the director of staff for the Rapid Reaction Corps-France in Lille, France, said he is honored and humbled to be the Spartan commander during such an important time.
“Your documented track record and 100% mission accomplishment has been nothing but stellar,” he added. “You ensured success across the numerous installations you belong to and the missions worldwide.”
The new commander thanked all the leaders who have taught him what “right looks like” throughout his military career, before thanking his wife, Mandi, for her support.
“You’ve sacrificed so much to support me over the last 15 years. I am sure I would not be here today if not for your love and support,” Lovasz said. “You’re my home, my family and my soft place to land.”