Honoring Legacy: Past Garrison Commanders Gather at Fort Belvoir for Luncheon

By Jason ShepherdApril 4, 2024

Retired Fort Belvoir Garrison Commanders join Col. Joe Messina, center for an Emeritus Commander's Luncheon. From left: Col (ret.) Greg Gadson, 2012-2014; Col. (ret.) Angie Holbrook, 2016-2017; Col. (ret.) Mike Greenberg, 2018-2020; Col. (ret.) Thomas Brady, 1995-1997; Col. (ret.) Thomas Williams, 2002-2005; Col. (ret.) Brian Lauritzen, 2005-2008; and Col. (ret.) Jerry Blixt, 2008-2010.
Retired Fort Belvoir Garrison Commanders join Col. Joe Messina, center for an Emeritus Commander's Luncheon. From left: Col (ret.) Greg Gadson, 2012-2014; Col. (ret.) Angie Holbrook, 2016-2017; Col. (ret.) Mike Greenberg, 2018-2020; Col. (ret.) Thomas Brady, 1995-1997; Col. (ret.) Thomas Williams, 2002-2005; Col. (ret.) Brian Lauritzen, 2005-2008; and Col. (ret.) Jerry Blixt, 2008-2010. (Photo Credit: Paul Lara) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BELVOIR, Va. – Several past garrison commanders came back to Fort Belvoir, some for the first time in years, at the invitation of current garrison commander, Col. Joseph Messina, for a Leaders Emeritus event March 29 at the Fort Belvoir Golf Club.

Over lunch, the seven garrison leaders all shared experiences running the day-to-day operations of Fort Belvoir, and each offered a unique perspective of the past challenges of the post. The former commanders were especially keen to see first-hand how some of the initiatives they started during their tenure had turned out.

The garrison commanders in attendance included: Col. (ret.) Thomas Brady, 1995-1997; Col. (ret.) Thomas Williams, 2002-2005; Col. (ret.) Brian Lauritzen, 2005-2008; Col. (ret.) Jerry Blixt, 2008-2010. Col. (ret.) Greg Gadson, 2012-2014; Col. (ret.) Angie Holbrook, 2016-2017; and Col. (ret.) Mike Greenberg, 2018-2020.

For Messina, the luncheon was also an opportunity to learn from the experiences of the past garrison commanders, especially when it came to dealing with crises. Several commanders shared their experiences dealing with major challenges during their tenures including rounds of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), rapid population growth on the installation, transitioning to privatized housing, and responding to COVID-19.

“It was great to talk to these past garrison commanders and hear what they had to go through during their time here,” Messina said. “We all agreed that during all these crises, constant communication with the people of Fort Belvoir was always the most important, and the most difficult.”

During the meeting, Messina gave a rundown on the current state of affairs on Fort Belvoir and shared that the total supported population on the installation is now over 236,000 people, including over 130,000 retirees and their families. He also discussed the garrison’s current challenges which include hiring and retaining gate guards, childcare providers, and Directorate of Public Works specialists.

Col. (ret.) Lauritzen was one of the garrison commanders who spent a lot of time dealing with BRAC, including in 2005 when he had to accommodate an influx of an additional 20,000 workers and build a new hospital, as well as construct and plan the Wounded Warrior complex. He said his highlight was having a great team of professionals at the garrison that succeeded in every mission.

“(Belvoir) just keeps growing,” Lauritzen added. “I see the changes, and I'm trying to refresh my memory because it's been several years.  You see the new buildings and the new road work and so forth and so on…reminds me that running an installation is a big deal.”

He also remembers doing a similar former garrison commander event during his tenure and said at the time, it was great to see all the retired generals come back and hear their thoughts on how much things had changed.

“When this (luncheon) came up,” Lauritzen said, “I thought it harkens back to (my last meeting) and what a great opportunity to see guys that I haven't seen for several years. It's just a great opportunity to grip and grin again.”

(Photo Credit: Paul Lara) VIEW ORIGINAL

For Col. (ret.) Holbrook, coming back to Fort Belvoir offered her a chance to see how things had evolved since she left in 2017. She credits her time as a garrison commander for setting her up for success after her military service ended.

“There are so many things you learn in garrison command, like traffic patterns and utilities and how to basically run a city,” she said. “It has definitely set me up for success in other areas of my life because having done this job has allowed me to foray into different conversations that have been certainly helpful in my follow-on career.”

Though Messina’s garrison command is scheduled to end in August, he plans on scheduling another Leaders Emeritus Luncheon shortly after his change of command.

“I plan on doing this again in six months,” he said. “This is a great way for the new garrison commander to learn from all this experience which will help set him up for success.”