By Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison GrafenwoehrJuly 16, 2010
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany Aca,!aEURc Although rain trickled down for most of the morning, the sun peeked out from behind the clouds just before the beginning of the change of command ceremony, July 15, which welcomed the U.S Army Garrison Grafenwoehr's incoming commander, Col. Vann Smiley, and bid "Auf Wiedersehen" to outgoing commander Col. Chris Sorenson.
More than 400 Soldiers, family members and Department of the Army civilians, along with local nationals and members of the German military attended the event.
Sorenson had commanded the garrison since Aug. 14, 2008. Under Sorenson's command, USAG Grafenwoehr was the first garrison in the Army to earn the Army's Superior Unit Award. He is noted for his initiatives in building strong partnerships and programs between the Army and local German community.
Sorenson recognized the framework of support that makes Grafenwoehr "the best place to live, work and train," and extended his gratitude to numerous leaders and contributors who made the garrison successful.
"What makes our employees special is their pride and passion. While they work for us, they are contributors to the greater community," said Sorenson.
Sorenson's next assignment will be as director of operations - G3, U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C. Although he will return to the United States, the support of the German community will remain.
"We are guests of Germany and its people. Here in Bavaria and its Oberpfalz region we enjoy fantastic government and citizen support," said Sorenson.
Smiley, who was born in Wuerzburg, Germany, is also no stranger to German culture.
During the ceremony, Smiley expressed his excitement with the community about working in the Grafenwoehr area and fostering relationships with fellow commanders and community partners.
"Everything I've been exposed to tells a story of an incredible team here who takes its mission of supporting Soldiers, family members and the civilian employees very seriously every day," said Smiley.
The Washington State native began his military career as an infantry officer after graduating from Seattle University in 1988. His first assignment was at Fort Lewis, Wash., where he served in the 9th Infantry Division and 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Following the Infantry Advanced Course, Smiley served in various command and staff assignments worldwide and deployed in support of the Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and in support of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
Smiley served at the chief of operations for Installation Management Command in Washington, D.C. prior to assuming command of USAG Grafenwoehr, which is the largest garrison outside of the United States.
"The Army has invested a lot here and all you have to do is look around and you see pride in ownership," said Smiley. "My family and I look forward to being on the garrison team and wearing that pride with you."