There was a certain sentimental stillness in the air on Caserma Ederle’s Hoekstra Field as U.S. Army Garrison Italy Commander Col. Daniel J. Vogel relinquished command Friday to incoming commander Col. Matthew J. Gomlak.
Two years ago, Vogel could not have imagined what would take place when he entered command. It began with customary garrison activities – addressing the community’s needs, ribbon cutting ceremonies and visits with host nation partners. Then, seven months into his command, he would meet his unforeseen adversary, the coronavirus pandemic. After Feb. 23, 2020, caring for the community amid COVID-19 became his primary mission, said Tommy R. Mize, director of Installation Management Command-Europe.
“His leadership when Italy became the earliest epicenter in Europe was a superb example of managing a crisis of unknown magnitude and course with a steady and confident hand that his team and community needed,” Mize said.
Vogel led the community into the unknown as Italy became one of the most impacted locations in the world. With help from medical professionals at U.S. Army Health Center – Vicenza, Vogel navigated the impacts of the virus on the community, to include testing and prevention measures.
"He decisively led the European effort in protecting our community while weighing significant concerns,” said Lt. Col. Catharina Lindsey, Chief of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Chief of the Army Public Health Nursing for the Vicenza Army Health Clinic. “He has a passion and love for community members – a heartfelt approach – to protect the community.”
For example, the Department of Defense Education Activity schools on post were the only DoDEA schools that remained open and operational during the 2020-2021 school year.
“Col. Vogel buoyed trust and sustained a vibrant relationship with DoDEA, parents, and Army stakeholders,” said Beth Potter, DoDEA School Liaison Officer. “His leadership and commitment to students, parents, and schools was remarkable during a time when moral and confidence could have been dropping.”
Gomlak arrived recently from the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he served as the Chief of Staff. A U.S. Military Academy graduate and career Special Forces officer, Gomlak is joined by his wife and three daughters.
While keeping the coronavirus at bay, Vogel oversaw the implementation of best practices and lessons learned. This included seeing the pandemic through to recent vaccinations and reopening of many installations services. He now heads to the Warfighting and Leadership Department at the Air War College in Alabama.
“The people are what makes this garrison and this community one of the most outstanding organizations and communities,” Vogel said. “I will forever remember my time as the USAG Italy garrison commander, the most personally and professionally rewarding experience of my life.”