FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Col. John J. Strycula took command of Fort Belvoir Wednesday, succeeding Col. Jerry L. Blixt during a change-of-command ceremony on Long Parade field in front of installation headquarters.

Strycula said it's an honor to take command of such a vibrant and progressive installation like Belvoir. He also assured everyone attending, which included elected officials from Fairfax and Prince William counties, that it's his priority to maintain a strong, working relationship with the surrounding communities as Belvoir nears the end of Base Realignment and Closure actions.

"It's important that we continue to build on the bonds already established by this great installation. There are many challenges ahead, but I'm looking forward to the ride," Strycula said. "I want our Soldiers, families and civilians to take pride in saying Fort Belvoir is home."

A native of Pittsburgh, Strycula most recently stood up and trained the Army's first Military Intelligence Interrogation Battalion. After the training, the unit deployed for 15 months as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom to form the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center in Baghdad.

Earlier in the ceremony, Russell B. Hall, director, Northeast Region, U.S. Army Installation Management Command, paid homage to Blixt, who took command of Belvoir two years ago at the height of BRAC. While the change has been difficult at times to comprehend, Hall said Blixt has set a benchmark the Army can be proud of.

Among the many Blixt accomplishments, Hall mentioned his involvement in Belvoir's Residential Communities Initiative and the outgoing commander's drive in establishing the Army Family Covenant.

"Through the RCI, Col. Blixt has been instrumental in setting the standard for housing on an installation. He stands as the first commander to ever the cut the ribbon to the Army's first LEED platinum community," Hall said. "He has achieved so much during his time here. That includes cultivating a positive relationship with the communities he works with. It's been an absolute honor working with him."

With eight units of Soldiers on the parade field, including members of the Belvoir fire department and a contingent of civilians around him, Blixt began his speech by asking for a minute to "take it all in and enjoy the view." He then thanked his wife, Debbie, their children and the many friends and colleagues they have made during their time at the installation.

"It's been an exceptional honor to command Belvoir and to work alongside leaders I have an incredible amount of respect for," Blixt said. "We have gone through many changes together. But, I tell people it's good to embrace change. It not only helps the community, but helps the Army."

After pausing to remember former deputy installation commander JoAnn Blanks, who died last year after battling cancer, Blixt said the U.S. is still a nation at war and that it humbles him knowing that young men and women are joining the military knowing the hardships they will face.

He closed by saying he's proud of what Belvoir has accomplished during his tenure. Though, he knows better than anyone that nothing is done alone.

"Nothing would be possible if not for the efforts of our Soldiers, families, contractors and civilians. This installation is beautiful because of you," Blixt said. "Belvoir will always be a part of the Blixt family fabric."