FORT LEE, Va. – The many contributions of Brig. Gen. Michelle M.T. Letcher and Command Sgt. Maj. Petra M. Casarez were recognized during a combined relinquishment of command and responsibility ceremony June 21 in the Ordnance Training Support Facility here.
Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, hosted the sendoff event for the 42nd Chief of Ordnance and the Army branch’s 14th CSM. Numerous installation leaders attended the ceremony, as did friends and family members of both honorees. The proceedings were livestreamed on the Ordnance Corps Facebook page.
During remarks, Fogg first spoke about Letcher’s attributes as a commanding officer.
“Leadership is the secret sauce that gets things done,” he said. “We can be technical experts, but it’s about leadership, and Michelle has absolutely demonstrated that. You pushed readiness, mission command and joint concepts across our sustainment enterprise, and I’m extremely proud of you for all that you’ve done.”
Fogg noted the combination of Letcher’s experience, both as an officer and prior enlisted Soldier, made her the right fit to modernize and lead the broad mission of the Ordnance Corps, which operates 26 training locations and encompasses 30 enlisted occupational specialties.
“This is going to be a legacy I attribute to you,” Fogg said looking at Letcher “… the work, thinking big, the questioning, and the understanding of what investments we need to take on into the future, and of course that will be challenging, but sustainment has to have modernization investments in line and aligned with Army and joint logistics modernization – and you were the driving force for that.”
While Fogg said Letcher helped drive solutions for the organization and the Army, he acknowledged it was her people first efforts – an initiative driven by the Army’s chief of staff – that reigns as the most important take away.
“You pushed the right priority to put people first,” he acknowledged. “You made it more than just a buzz phrase with (emphasis on) listening sessions, project inclusion and professional panels … for gender equality and getting after corrosives. And you really did it. You tracked it, held people responsible and accountable, and stood as a standard-bearer. You have driven that into your organization, and you have helped me drive that across CASCOM and Fort Lee.”
Fogg then spoke about Casarez, who he cited as “the ideal noncommissioned officer to lead the Ordnance Corps.” He described her as compassionate, recalling a time when a tragedy occurred involving the family of one of her Soldiers. On that and many other occasions, she was the first person on-site when caring support was needed.
“Taking that action and really being there for people who have just experienced tragedy means a lot. It demonstrates the right leadership and the right amount of caring.” Fogg looked toward Casarez as he continued, “I just want to publicly say thank you very much for modeling that for all of us, and taking care of your Soldiers.”
He also highlighted talent management – a top priority for Casarez – and pointed out that 3,500 Soldiers received credentialing under self-development programs that she championed. He applauded the CSM for contributing to the development of the new Automotive Service Excellence Certification test, which is associated with civilian credentialing programs for every ordnance military occupational specialty.
“The Automotive Service Excellence Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Certifications and those tests associated with that for military platforms, (are) really the gold standard in the civilian community. We are pushing it to the ordnance team and our Soldiers, and that can be credited to many people, but in particular, the command sergeant major.”
In her parting remarks, Casarez took the time to thank leaders across the installation, her family and fellow staff members and Soldiers. The remainder of her remarks focused on changes within the Army and Ordnance Corps from the time she was a private to now.
“Driving change in the Army is sometimes uncomfortable,” the CSM observed. “… Change is embracing the new and being part of tomorrow’s solution, whether it is ponytails, cutting edge technology or groundbreaking concepts like JCCL. At the same time, it is not about forgetting our standards, our rich heritage, or customs and courtesies.”
Last to speak was Letcher, who also thanked mentors and friends who attended in person and virtually. She recalled a moment she shared with her husband upon hearing she was selected to serve as the 42nd Chief of Ordnance.
“In the ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,’ it’s the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.” Explaining the statement, she continued, “In a spiritual sense, the number 42 stands for progress and stability, and I think reflecting back a year, progress is what would most equate the tenure of the 42nd Chief of Ordnance. (It’s) not because of anything number 42 did, but rather how blessed I was with a very talented team that had the answers to everything.”
The rest of Letcher’s comments reflected on the significance of progress, driving change and developing leaders. She thanked teammates she served with and their families. Letcher noted that her expectations for the 43rd Chief of Ordnance are high, but she is certain the corps will succeed and thrive under the new leadership.
“The number 43 stands for success. … I have complete confidence the 43rd Chief of Ordnance will continue to drive change and deliver solutions that win,” Letcher said confidently.
Brig. Gen. Michael Lalor and Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Decker are scheduled to take charge of the Ordnance Corps, July 13. Further details about their assumption of command/responsibility ceremonies will be announced soon.
When she departs from Fort Lee, Letcher will serve as the Army Futures Command chief of staff in Austin, Texas. Casarez is set to become CSM of Joint Munitions Command, Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois.