By SUSANNE KAPPLER, Fort Jackson LeaderJune 24, 2010
FORT JACKSON, SC -- Just five days after Col. Lillian Dixon assumed command of the U.S. Army Garrison Fort Jackson in July 2007, she got a taste of things to come.
"On that Wednesday, I was at home receiving my household goods, and all the lights went off on Fort Jackson. I was sitting in my seat saying, 'I know I'm supposed to be doing something,'" Dixon said.
A few phone calls later, Military Police officers were directing traffic at the post's intersections, and workers were trying to trace the root of the power outage.
"That was kind of my introduction to being the garrison commander and what was in store for me for the next three years," Dixon said.
On Friday, Dixon will relinquish command to Col. James Love in a change of command ceremony at 11 a.m. at Post Headquarters. Dixon will deploy to Iraq to serve as the senior adviser for human resources to the Iraqi ministry of defense.
In her three years in command, Dixon said the garrison faced some challenges, most notably budget cuts. She credited both IMCOM and Fort Jackson's leadership with providing her support to face those challenges.
"I think what I've learned the most out of this - and that I know I'll take away from it - is that relationships are very important," Dixon said. "When you have several commands here, when you work together as a team, regardless of what patch you're wearing on your arm, you can get more things accomplished. When you keep in your heart and mind that everything you're doing is for ... the Soldiers who are going to leave here and most likely go into harm's way, it's easier for you to take the team spirit, because that's what it's all about - taking care of them and their families."
Dixon said her biggest task was setting the conditions for the installation to be able to meet future mission requirements. Scott Nahrwold, deputy garrison commander, said she succeeded in doing that.
"I'd say the wave of new construction and the challenge of putting together a comprehensive master plan that we had been without for quite some time was probably one of the more remarkable aspects of her tour here as garrison commander," Nahrwold said.
During her tenure, many milestones were achieved on Fort Jackson, such as the privatization of family housing, barracks upgrades and the implementation of quality of life programs as a result of the Army Family Covenant. Dixon was reluctant, however, to highlight one of those achievements.
"To me, it was the culmination - or the combination - of everything we do in customer service or to support the Soldiers and the families, and even the civilians here, that really brings everything home for me," she said. "That's why we exist as a garrison."
Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Culbertson said her level of commitment to support the people on Fort Jackson distinguishes her as a leader.
"Her biggest strength is her passion for Soldiers and getting the job done," Culbertson said. "She'll work through all hours of the night, knowing there's only 24 hours to the day and 60 minutes in an hour. She will use every bit of it to make sure that she is doing what she can to take care of Soldiers, the civilians and our family members."
That passion also resulted in a special relationship Dixon forged with her military and civilian subordinates, Nahrwold said.
"It's a very committed relationship both ways," he said. "This is, for me, a textbook example of how loyalty works, both up and down the chain of command. She's intensely loyal to the folks who serve as her subordinates, and they return that loyalty right back to her in their commitment to putting in extra effort. They go above and beyond in what she asks of them."
Dixon said some of her favorite memories are visits with employees on night shift or working holiday hours. She added that if she could do one thing differently, it would be visiting garrison employees more often to show her appreciation for what they do.
"This is one of the most rewarding jobs I've had since I've been in the Army, probably the most challenging job I've had, but having the folks who work for me has really made it easy. They have such great attitudes about what they do," she said. "I'd just like to tell them, 'Thank you' for everything they've done and what they've meant to me. They're still my family, no matter where I am."