FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The U.S. Army Warrant Officer Career College welcomed its new commandant, a Soldier born “just a mile down the road” in what was then Lyster Army Hospital, during a July 28 ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum.
Col. Kevin E. McHugh assumed command as he accepted the unit colors from Brig. Gen. David Foley, deputy commanding general of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center, as outgoing commandant Col. Ross F. Nelson looked on.
“I’m excited to return home and absolutely humbled to join this great team of professionals,” McHugh said, adding his thanks to Foley for his leadership and trust. “I look forward to, along your lines of effort, continuing to make the next generation of tactical professionals.”
The commandant thanked the Nelson family for “ensuring our safe landing here at USAWOCC,” he said. “Angela and I wish you the very best.”
He also thanked his father and mother for attending, before thanking his family.
To his two sons, he said, “I am so proud of what you’ve done, but more importantly, what I know you will do. And to the unsung hero of this team, Angela, the cornerstone of this family. Words cannot express my gratitude – I would not be here without your continued love and support.”
Foley said the Army made the right decision selecting McHugh for the commandant position.
“As we say farewell to the Nelson family, we’re excited to welcome Col. Kevin E. McHugh and his (family),” he added. “Kevin, your reputation as a leader is unmatched. Your recent experience has prepared you for what you will face as you now take the responsibility of command. I know that the USAWOCC enterprise is in capable hands. You have my complete faith and trust to lead USAWOCC, and I look forward to the next chapter of this organization.”
The general also thanked Nelson for his efforts as commandant of the USAWOCC.
“Ross led the Warrant Officer Career College through a period of modernization, and also accreditation with TRADOC,” Foley said. “He achieved this through the challenges and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under Ross’ leadership, the USAWOCC maintained the same quality of education and commitment despite a rapidly changing and unprecedented operating environment.
“Through Ross’ dedicated leadership, USAWOCC designed, developed and implemented – transformed –the educational construct of the Army’s more than 28,000 warrant officers,” he added.
Nelson thanked everyone who supported and helped USAWOCC during his three years in command.
“None of this is by my doing or design,” he said. “I must thank God for the opportunities and blessings in my life. He has allowed me to do what I love, and to be surrounded and influenced by these amazing people.”
He also thanked those in leadership above him for trusting him to command, and “your mentorship, guidance and support – and also for not firing me prior to today.
“Even during this important day in USAWOCC history, we still have our most important mission happening across Fort Rucker – making the next generation of warrant officers, and continuing to educate and train senior warrants to be more effective advisers for their commanders in the field.” Nelson said.
The colonel thanked all of the supporting organizations and units on Fort Rucker for their daily support, along with the college’s external networks of senior warrant officers whose “support and mentoring has taught me, this old colonel, a few things,” he said before adding his appreciation to the entire USAWOCC staff. “In the past three years, we trained over 6,000 candidates and 4,500 senior warrant officers. Your efforts will be felt for decades to come.
“We have seen some unexpected challenges these past three years – from canceling our annual ball hours before the meal was to be served, to continuing to train candidates while the rest of the Army took a knee when COVID kicked in, to transitioning to virtual training over a weekend, and then back to live and continuing to train with the uncertainty of what candidates or students were going to test positive for COVID tomorrow,” Nelson added.
“You performed all of this as professionals without missing a beat – you made my job easy,” he said. “You are truly all dedicated professionals to our Army and to our cohort, and they need you to continue doing your jobs so we can transform the college and meet the Army’s future challenges. Your impact to the cohort will be felt for generations.”
To his spouse, Jennifer, and children, he said, “Thank you for your love and support, and for understanding why I go to bed at 8 p.m. and turn on the lights at 3 a.m. to make coffee. Your behind the scenes actions have allowed me to be a better Soldier – I couldn’t do what I do without you.”
Nelson, who will move on to become the senior regular Army adviser to the adjutant general for the State of Alabama National Guard, also had words for the McHugh family.
“Kevin and Angela, I’m excited to hand the reins over to you and see where you lead the college in the next few years,” he said. “Your experience and abilities far outweigh mine, and the USAWOCC team will allow you to accomplish amazing things. I know our Rising Eagles are in good hands – best of luck and Godspeed.”