CHIEVRES, Belgium - A career finance officer took the reins of U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Wednesday on ChiAfA..vres Air Base amid nearly 500 guests, including U.S and international military partners, local dignitaries and garrison employees.

Col. Rick Tillotson assumed command of the brigade-level U.S. NATO support installation from Col. James Drago, listing three tenets as the focal point of his vision for the garrison.

"The garrison's mission is to support U.S. personnel in and in support of NATO throughout the garrison's footprint," Tillotson said in his remarks after assuming command. "To endure mission success, I will focus on three areas - fostering a values-based organization, maintaining a customer service focus in everything that we do, and ensuring a commitment to excellence."

Tillotson welcomes the opportunity to support NATO, he said, calling it "the most successful alliance in history, and one that has formed a vital and enduring bond between the United States and Europe."

The hour-long ceremony inside the community recreation center kicked off with the entrance of a combined U.S., Belgian and Dutch color guard, accented by music from the SHAPE International Band. Military formations from the Brussels and Schinnen garrisons joined a platoon of Belgian soldiers at the wide end of the baseball diamond-shaped layout. Outside local Belgian World War II re-enactors in authentic uniforms set-up an elaborate display of vintage vehicles and equipment.

After the colors had been passed between official parties signifying the changing of command, Installation Management Command - Europe Director Diane Devens praised Drago's tenure as commander and set new expectations for Tillotson's command.

"Under (Drago's) leadership, the ChiAfA..vres community brought to fruition a state of the art Army lodge," said Devens, who presided over the ceremony as the senior ranking official at IMCOM Europe. "He gained approval for the construction of the Brunssum child development center a year ahead of schedule to better serve our customers there, and he led an effort that culminated in the construction of the Alliance Home Station Training Area complex to support [Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom] pre-deployment training."

Drago left an indelible impact on USAG Benelux both inside and outside the garrison's gates, Devens said, highlighting the relationships he has made in the host nation communities.

"For the past 36 months, it has been my honor, my privilege and indeed, my good fortune, to be part of this USAG Benelux team," Drago said. "Due to the fact that mission accomplishment in this footprint depends mostly on relationships, as opposed to formal command structures laid out in some command organizational chart, it is only because of the team of teams that exists here in the Benelux that we are so successful in accomplishing our mission."

Drago is on orders to serve as the inspector general for the state of Washington.

Turning her attention to Tillotson, Devens cited Tillotson's finance background, family focus, deployments to Iraq and previous assignments to Europe as excellent preparation for his new command.

"There is no more challenging time than now to lead an Army garrison. When confronted with the reality (IMCOM Commander General Rick Lynch) has laid out, there are three fundamental questions we all need to ask ourselves as we move forward in our decision making processes: are we doing things right; are we doing the right things; and as we go about doing the right things, what are we missing' I expect you will work hard to answer those questions correctly as we chart a course for the future here."

Tillotson most recently served as the G-8 assistant chief of staff for the 1st Armored Division, headquartered in Wiesbaden, Germany, serving on a 15-month deployment to Iraq as part of Task Force Iron. Following his tour to Germany, he attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.

Tillotson holds a bachelor's degree in finance from Northern Illinois University and a master's in education from Ball State University.