FORT LEE, Va. – A former Division 1 softball player, Army medic and professor of military science was welcomed here June 23 as the new commander of the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade.
During the change of command, Col. Toni M. Rieke, a native of Missouri, was ceremoniously handed the Dragon Brigade colors, marking the beginning of her leadership tenure and the end of the duties Col. Jason P. Affolder has performed since June 2019.
Col. Michelle K. Donahue, Quartermaster General, officiated the ceremony. She was joined in attendance by Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, and a sizeable list of other key leaders from the sustainment community. Many watched the proceedings through the event’s livestream on social media.
Rieke, a former enlisted healthcare specialist, comes to Fort Lee from Missouri State University, where she was the school’s first female professor of military science. She also earned her undergraduate degree there and was inducted into its athletic hall of fame as a softball player in 2017.
Donahue described Rieke as an experienced sustainer and talented Soldier who cares about people. “The Army could not have chosen a better leader to take the reins of the Dragon Brigade,” she said.
Rieke, speaking directly to supporters, said her good fortune over more than 25 years of service is due to a “family that grows” with each location, job opportunity and sports endeavor.
“I have a large family – not just immediate,” she acknowledged. “Everybody I’ve encountered in the Army and outside the service is part of my family. Wherever I’ve gone, there was an athletic team I’ve played on; somebody I knew I could count on. I am the most fortunate person to have such a large family.
“Your love and support has contributed to who I am and my success,” she continued. “Everyone has been influential in different ways, helping me work through procrastination … assisting in writing speeches and papers, being running partners or sounding boards, and most of all, (being) my biggest fans. I’m truly blessed and humbled to have you in my life.”
As the leader of one-of-three primary CASCOM troop elements. Rieke will be responsible for the health and welfare of roughly 23,000 advanced individual training Soldiers annually attending the QM School.
Rieke’s predecessor took command of the Dragon Brigade following the accidental death of its previous commander, Col. Gregory S. Townsend, in April 2019. He focused on healing the brigade, said Donahue, while rigorously executing mission goals and tackling such issues as stepped-up implementation of tactical and leadership training, extremism, suicide, and sexual harassment and assault.
In his second year, Affolder led the brigade through a crippling pandemic, Donahue pointed out, and said his ability to weather storms conveys much about his leadership acumen.
Affolder, who spoke before Rieke, said faith sustained him throughout his tenure. He spent several minutes thanking superiors, former and present staff members, and all others who impacted his efforts, referencing a passage from the “The Army Quartermaster Song” to emphasize his point.
“There’s a verse in there that really rings true,” he said. “‘The team that keeps things moving at the front and post-to-post; when a Soldier has tough going, we’re the team you need the most.’ And so, as I look around and reflect on the last couple of years, that just rings true to me. We’re the team that keeps things moving, and you all are the team I needed the most. I witnessed that each and every day and (am) just privileged and thankful to serve amongst such a great team and team of teams.”
After Affolder exhausted his ‘thank you’ list, he talked about his wife, Brandyn, who took on multiple family responsibilities as he pursued those involving work.
“Thank you for being the rock,” he said, his voice slightly trembling.
Prior to the ceremony, Donahue awarded Brandyn the Catharine Greene Award and other accolades. Her husband was presented with the Legion of Merit, Somervell Medal and Order of Saint Martin.
The Affolders’ are scheduled to relocate to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
(Editor’s Note: Identified as a colonel in this article, Donahue was promoted to brigadier general at a June 24 ceremony in the Army Women’s Museum. A video recording of that event can be viewed at www.facebook.com/QuartermasterSchool.)