FORT LEE, Va. (June 15, 2021) – A former enlisted Soldier and veteran of the wars in Southwest Asia – as well as an avid University of Alabama football fan – took command of the 244th Quartermaster Battalion June 11 at Mullins Auditorium.
Lt. Col. Michael J. Martin Sr., a quartermaster officer since 2003, was entrusted with the Guardian Battalion colors by Col. Jason P. Affolder, 23rd QM Brigade commander, during the usual change of command formalities. He replaced Lt. Col. Denis J. Fajardo, who led the battalion since April 2019.
Among the event’s attendees were Col. Michelle K. Donahue, Quartermaster General; Chief Warrant Officer 5 Milo Jones, QM Corps CWO; Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge C. Escobedo, CASCOM CSM; CSM Eric J. Vidal, QM Corps CSM; and CSM Albert E. Richardson Jr., 23rd QM Bde. CSM. Numerous individuals watched the Facebook livestream of the proceedings.
Martin, a Birmingham, Ala., native, enlisted in 1997 and later earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Alabama. Since then, he has fulfilled postings in South Korea; Iraq; Germany; Afghanistan; Fort Polk, Louisiana, and Kuwait. He comes to Fort Lee from Fort Hood, Texas, where he served as the Maintenance Readiness Chief, Assistant Chief of Staff G4, III Corps.
From the lectern, Affolder said Martin is a proven leader who “has the professional credentials to lead in tough situations.”
“The Army has definitely picked another strong leader and family to lead the Guardian Battalion,” he confirmed.
Martin, whose wife and three sons were present for the ceremony, will command a QM School troop element charged with supporting more than 1,000 students and cadre on a daily basis.
“Michael, I’m confident you will continue to make the battalion better by caring for our Soldiers to ensure mission accomplishment,” Affolder said. “I charge you with model character, competence and compassion as you lead from the front and inspire Soldiers to be ready on day one just as you are today. Welcome to the team.”
At the beginning of his remarks, Martin evoked the influence of noncommissioned officers on his career, reciting a portion of the NCO Creed.
“I always like to start my speeches with it because I’ve been very fortunate in my 23 years of service (to be impacted) by some very outstanding NCOs,” he said, subsequently naming the noncoms who most-influenced him. “Each of these professional NCOs have all closely mentored me in my career in some form or fashion. Each of these NCOs are part of the reason I’m standing in front of you today.”
Earlier, Martin thanked Donahue and Affolder for the opportunity to lead. He closed by thanking the Fajardo family for the smooth transition and said he looked forward to working with Guardian Battalion cadre and Soldiers.
While speaking about Fajardo to the audience, Affolder said the outgoing commander’s performance of duties here fulfilled author and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl’s principles of “purposeful work, loving relationships and courage under adversity.”
“Denis, your leadership has provided meaning to your formation and inspired them to achieve excellence,” he said of the former automated logistical specialist who started his Army career in the same battalion he commanded. “You provided purpose in your work and provided purpose, motivation and direction to your Soldiers. Your love for the battalion and your job as commander proved the words of Palestinian Poet Kahlil Gibran that ‘work is love made visible.’
“You formed loving relationships that a commander has to those in his charge, providing tough love to develop your junior leaders and staff,” Affolder continued. “You definitely demonstrated courage in the shared adversity of the global pandemic that changed every one of our SOPs and even took the life of one of your senior NCOs.”
Affolder went on to say Fajardo also showed adaptability and creativity in pursuing objectives for the brigade’s largest battalion; overcoming many obstacles along the way.
“You made all tasks and missions look easy as you fully embodied the can-do positive spirit of the battalion motto, ‘If you can’t, we can,’” he noted. “Your leadership has left a lasting legacy on the Guardian Battalion, the Dragon Brigade and the lives of countless Soldiers and leaders.”
Fajardo, a Cuban immigrant, said his story is as improbable as any.
“I am surprised to be up here as many of you who know my story recognize,” he said to the audience. “There’s no way Pvt. Fajardo – starting 27 years ago right here in the Alpha Gators of 244th Quartermaster Battalion – thought he would be standing at the podium after the privilege of experiencing battalion command with the best Soldiers, cadre, civilians and contractors in the Army.”
Fajardo thanked those responsible for his ascension, spending minutes mentioning family, friends, fellow Soldiers and mentors in and out of uniform. He later focused on his departure from the unit in which he started.
“People keep asking me, ‘Are you ready to go?’” he reflected. “The answer surprises most. I’m excited about my next opportunity, but I’m not ready to go. This has been a dream come true and the most rewarding assignment in my career, thanks to the people here and all those who helped me get here. … It makes me think of the Bluebell ice cream commercial that says it all: ‘The good ole days are being made now.’”
Fajardo immigrated to America with his single mother in 1980. He went on to earn an undergraduate degree from the Florida International University and was commissioned a quartermaster officer in 2001. He later earned a master of arts in social organizational psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University.
For his next assignment, the husband and father of three is scheduled to attend the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy, National Defense University, Fort McNair, Washington, D.C.