FORT SILL, Oklahoma (July 30, 2021) – A year and a half of challenging times concluded July 29, with Col. Ann Behrends passing on command of the Fort Sill Dental Activity. As if on cue, a refreshing breeze arrived just in time to cool the proceedings.
Lt. Col. Demarcio Reed succeeded Behrends during a change of command ceremony officiated by Col. Stefan Olpinski, Dental Health Command-Central commander, at the Old Post Quadrangle.
The event opened with awards presented to the outgoing commander and spouse. Maj. Gen. Ken Kamper, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, presented Behrends’ husband, Ronnie Bolin, with a Meritorious Public Service Medal and The Order of the Red Legacy.
The general then turned his attention to Behrends and the careful deliberation that was exercised in considering her for the Order of Saint Barbara. Kamper produced a sheet of paper that summarized Behrends’ career and spoke about the DENTAC commander’s excellent leadership. He specifically mentioned the DENTAC team’s attempt to resurrect Allen Dental Clinic from the February deep freeze that, like several buildings on post, suffered water damage from burst water pipes. One day after the frigid temperatures abated, dental staff members were attempting to bring the clinic back online and drying out patients’ dental records. Kamper said the clinic looked ready to open, but the water damage was more extensive and delayed that reopening.
“Ann’s team in that dental clinic epitomized service,” said Kamper.
Olpinski then presented Behrends with the Legion of Merit. He said it was great having Behrends as a fellow commander in his region, and Fort Sill always had good dental leadership.
Behrends then briefly addressed all assembled.
“The things I’ve enjoyed most about Fort Sill are the camaraderie and the traditions. Coming from Texas A&M, a school big on traditions, this is the place that’s the most like A&M to me. I have really, really enjoyed my time here,” she said.
Change of command
Tradition took a slight twist when members of the Fort Sill Artillery Half Section handed tokens of appreciation to the family members of the two DENTAC commanders. Cassandra Reed, mother of Lt. Col. Reed, received the customary bouquet of flowers, but Bolin was presented something more fitting for a man who lives on a Texas ranch – a Stetson western hat.
“I grew up wearing them, and I needed a new straw hat,” said Bolin. “The other one I’d worn out in the pasture – it’s all sweaty and dirty.”
He said he wasn’t expecting the hat until his wife said that’s what she wanted to do for him, provided he choose the style of hat he preferred.
The “cost” turned out to be a fair trade as Bolin handed over a bucket of refreshments for the half section Soldiers and horses, as well as some shiny apples for horses who elected not to participate, according to the event narrator, Sgt. 1st Class Landon Holt.
Following the ceremonial passing of the unit colors, Olpinski spoke to all in attendance as well as those watching online.
“Ann and Ron, I’d like to thank you for your dedication and unquestionable loyalty to the unit’s mission,” he said.
The colonel added the accomplishments of Fort Sill DENTAC were a direct reflection of Behrends’ leadership and commitment to the Soldiers, civilians, and family members of this organization. He mentioned the improved systems and procedures her team developed. These resulted in increased dental readiness that exceeded 95 percent, which he called an incredible accomplishment given the pandemic and major winter storm.
“Colonel Behrends is a leader who cares and pours her heart and soul into everything she does,” he said.
Turning his thoughts to the incoming commander, Olpinski said you couldn’t ask for a better commander to follow Behrends.
“Demarcio has a rare and successful blend of inclusive leadership coupled with superior management skills, which will ensure the continued success of the Fort Sill DENTAC,” he said.
Taking her turn at the microphone, Behrends said her time at Fort Sill turned out to be one of the best tours of her career. “I have truly enjoyed it (and have) worked with stellar people.”
She said it was a time of mixed emotions, of saying good-bye to those she worked with for the past three years while also looking forward to her next challenge.
“The last three years have been interesting to say the least, especially the last year and a half. The global pandemic, an ice storm in October, Snowmageddon in February and a flooded clinic, a flood of epic proportions in June, and losing two of our valued and loved teammates – Darryl Thomas and Tiffany Salazar – they will be missed.
“It’s been quite a rollercoaster ride, but I’m glad you were on the ride with me,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be on this journey with.”
Behrends cited Fires 50 axiom No. 45 “Life is more fun with great teammates,” though she added they were more than just teammates, and will now be part of her extended family.
“I’ve always considered it an honor and a privilege to be part of a team that takes care of our warriors,” she said.
She also shared Fires 50 axiom No. 40: “Leave the jersey in a better place than you found it.”
“I hope that is what I’ve done,” said Behrends.
She then signed off with a quote from songwriter Jimmy Buffett, who said wrinkles only go where the smiles have been.
“I should be leaving here with a whole lot more wrinkles than when I arrived,” she said.
The DENTAC staff then heard from their new commander as Reed addressed his predecessor.
“Colonel Behrends, the attendance here today is a testament of your leadership and your accomplishments during your time as the Fort Sill DENTAC commander,” said Reed. “I’m sure the impact you had will be missed after you leave.”
Reed thanked the DENTAC staff for their warm welcome and looks forward to working with them.
Thanking Olpinski and members of his family watching online in Mississippi, Reed then turned his attention to the person who matters the most to him.
“I would like to thank my mom. She has been my support system throughout my career and has been present at most special ceremonies, such as this today,” he said.
Reed called serving an honor, and the opportunity to command a privilege. He called Fort Sill a community of great leaders.
“It is my intent to earn the trust and the respect of this team as we perform our very important dental mission. This team will get my very best to bring purpose to our mission, commitment to excellence in our execution, and a promise to bring energy and enthusiasm in sustaining this standard.
“Our Army mission is not just personal, it’s intensely personal. Because this is about our organization and our people (who without) nothing could be accomplished,” he said.
For more photos of this ceremony, see https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortsillcannoneer/albums/72157719605245258