FORT LEE, Va. – Team Lee welcomed a new garrison commander and joined in the emotional farewell of his predecessor, Col. Karin L. Watson, during an Aug. 5 ceremony in the main ballroom of the Lee Club here.
The well-attended event that was livestreamed on the installation’s Facebook page began with the traditional relinquishment of colors from the outgoing commander to IMCOM-Training Director Vincent E. Grewatz. He then handed them over to Col. James D. Hoyman, a 23-year Army Engineer who comes to Fort Lee from Hawaii where he served as a deputy in the Indo-Pacific Command’s J4 Logistics and Engineering Directorate.
Grewatz first reflected on Watson’s accomplishments during the ensuing remarks.
“Col. Watson drove positive change during her command, undeterred by forces that threatened mission success,” he said. “With our medical professionals, she led the installation’s response to COVID. … She achieved reforms to privatized housing [oversight] in the Army, setting the gold standard for how a partnership should work. She materially improved quality of life and readiness in the face of constrained resources, restricted hiring, supply chain friction, a world-wide pandemic, resurgent international threats, and a wide range of social issues that affect our national security.”
Reminding the audience that Fort Lee was the first installation chosen to support the Department of Homeland Security’s Afghan evacuation mission dubbed Operation Allies Welcome, he credited her with “pulling together the team that forged the processes and [tactics, techniques and procedures]” that were exported to other installations such as forts Bliss, McCoy and Pickett that later joined the OAW effort.
“All of this is impressive,” Grewatz continued, “and it was done while still integrating and synchronizing installation services, which is in fact complex and daunting work. Karen made it look easy, but I would say her greatest legacy is … the relationships and the teammates, the friendships, the effectiveness she forged as a result of bringing together the community here at Fort Lee. That is the gift that she bequeaths to the incoming commander, giving him a solid foundation for the next chapter of Fort Lee’s mission.”
Turning his attention to Hoyman, the director acknowledged his extensive engineer and operational experience, but advised, “Nothing you’ve done in your entire career has fully prepared you for the job you’re about to undertake.”
Instead, garrison commanders must tap into the core traits of military leadership.
“You truly distinguish yourself by your integrity, your managerial skills, creativity and flexibility, and your compassionate sense of responsibility for our Soldiers above all,” Grewatz said. “All of these things are branch immaterial. … I’m sure you’re going to do well, and I have all the trust and confidence that you will take this command to the next level. Please accept my personal welcome to Fort Lee.”
Watson used her time at the lectern to meticulously thank specific individuals, offices and organizations for supporting her over the past two years. During pauses to collect her emotions, she would comment, “phew, this is hard,” and continue the acknowledgements a few seconds afterward.
“I thank the Lord for blessing me with this wonderful opportunity and the awesome people He surrounded me with,” she said in her concluding comments. “I am immensely proud of the relationships that were built and extremely grateful for trust and confidence you placed in me. This is the best team of all. Today is not about my accomplishments; it is about our accomplishments. I am really proud to have served with you, and the memories of the time we’ve had together will stay with me forever.”
She then offered another welcome to Hoyman, and assured him, “You have the best team in IMCOM and I would absolutely bet on that. Good luck to you and your family. I am confident you will take the garrison to new heights.”
Last to speak, Hoyman capped off his comments with the following statement.
“These are the [three] things you can count on from me and those in my charge. Honesty, accountability and passion,” he said. “Honesty to make clear-eyed assessments, communicate candidly and receive feedback humbly. Accountability to the mission, to the people and to continue doing things the right way. Passion for what we do and the requisite confidence in care.
“This Fort Lee team is an excellent team and there’s no doubt about it. I appreciate the way you framed that, Karen,” Hoyman concluded. “Being on a great team is exceptionally rewarding and exceptionally fun. I look forward to that fun.”