In a traditional Army change of command ceremony, Col. Frederick S. Clarke relinquished command of U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll to Col. Joseph N. Gaines. Clarke has been the commander of USAKA since July 31, 2008. The ceremony took place in the fixed wing hangar on Kwajalein Wednesday morning with more than 200 guests attending.

James Caughie, master of ceremonies, welcomed distinguished guests and ladies and gentleman from the community to the change of command ceremony. The official party marched into the hangar and took their place next to the flag stand. The audience remained standing for the playing of the national anthems of both the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the United States.

Chaplain Rick Funk then read the Invocation. "On this day we honor those with the gift of leadership. Our departing Commander Col. Clarke has exercised [this gift] to the benefit of our work and way of life. Commander Col. Gaines, we anticipate that his gift of leadership will advance the mission of this command and the welfare of this community. Grant him wisdom and perseverance in this task."

Caughie then explained the mission of the Commander at USAKA to the audience.

"The commander of USAKA/RTS is trustee of an internationally significant, three-fold mission. First, he is responsible for the command, operation and modernization of a world class range - to test strategic and theater missile systems and support space operations. Secondly, he is charged with the responsibility to sustain a strong international partnership with our host nation, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, through the promotion of mutually beneficial relations. Lastly, he must oversee and manage a remote, self-sufficient, quality installation and community."

At that time, a traditional Marshallese wut and yellow roses were presented to Dianne Reed, welcoming her to the command and the USAKA community. While not present, Caughie still expressed his thanks to Veronique Clarke for her outstanding support to the USAKA community.

The official party then rose for the exchanging of the flags. Sgt. Maj. Hohn Wolf delivered the USASMDC/ARSTRAT flag to the group.

Caughie stated, "The change of command ceremony is a time honored tradition transferring total responsibility, authority, and accountability from one commander to another. Procedures for the transfer of command were established nearly 200 years ago. It represents the orderly transition of power within the military from the outgoing commander to the incoming commander."

Wolf then passed the flag to Clarke. Clarke then passed the flag to Dr. Steven Messervy, Deputy to the Commander for Research, Development and Acquisition. This signified the end of Clarke's tenure as the Commander. Messervy then presented the colors to Gaines, signifying the beginning of his tenure as Commander. Gaines then passed the colors back to Wolf for safekeeping, who then placed the flag back in the stand.

The official party was seated and Caughie introduced the first guest speaker of the evening, Dr. Messervy. "It's really an honor for me to be here and participate in this event. It's nice to really take the time to honor Col. Clarke and welcome Col. Gaines. We just witnessed a time honored tradition within the U.S. Army and the Armed Services and that is to pass the colors from the outgoing Commander to the incoming Commander, which is the symbol of Command responsibility changing from one Commander to the next."

About Clarke, Messervy said, "Col. Clarke has built a strong team here of Soldiers, civilians, contractors with the government and the people of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. He's led this organization with passion. In the two years of his Command, it was not always sunny with a tropical breeze. Many of you know the challenges that you face daily here and longer term challenges that we try to work together to solve. Col. Clarke has never wavered; he's taken responsibility and Col. Clarke's legacy will always be with the many lives which he's influenced here. I can say here at headquarters we wish you, Vee and Savannah every success in the future. We're very fortunate to have Col. Clarke stay with us within the SMDC family as he goes to his new assignment in Colorado Springs and he becomes the J3 for the JFCC-IMD.

"Col. Joe Gaines is highly qualified to take command here today. We are also happy to welcome his lovely wife Dianne," Messervy said. He pledged not only his support, but support from all of SMDC in order to keep Gaines' command on Kwajalein synced with SMDC's mission in order to assure he is successful.

The next guest speaker was Casten Nemra, Chief Secretary, Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

"Naturally we often find ourselves reflective at how things were two years ago and looking forward of what's to come over the next two years," he said.

Just a few days before the ceremony, Nemra looked back on the list of projects that were completed in the past two years in conjunction with USAKA under Clarke's command and he was pleased at how long the list was.

"Col. Clarke, thank you for your generosity, professionalism and excellent leadership. Thank you for consulting with us on issues of mutual interest. We greatly appreciate your time, your listening and more, your understanding. We also thank you for applying what is a basic common sense and fair approach. We are very grateful for all the support and assistance you have provided. On a personal note, as someone who often meets and sits on the other side of the table with you, Col. Clarke, you have my utmost gratitude and respect as a fellow human being. Our best wishes to you and your family.

"To Col. Gaines, we wish to welcome you and your family to the Marshall Islands. We look forward to working with you. I want to assure you of our commitment to you and your team in the spirit of a strong partnership. Simply put, what is good for USAKA is good for the RMI and its people and what's good for the RMI and its people is good for USAKA."

Clarke then took the podium to express his thanks and well wishes to those he had worked with over the past two years and those he's only had the privilege of working with for just a short time. He thanked SMDC for their support and fellow USAKA staff for their hard work and guidance on day to day issues. He thanked PACOM for their projects they brought to Ebeye and Enniburr.

Clarke expressed gratitude to the school administrators and teachers. "You bring hope to our children's futures. Nothing brings our communities closer together than your efforts with our children."

Clarke thanked the medical staff for "taking care of us in less than favorable facility conditions. With direction from SMDC and some of the leadership that is sitting here today, $2.5 million will be programmed for interim repairs to our facilities as we continue to work toward a new hospital."

Clarke recognized Reagan Test Site and Lt. Col. John Eggert. He expressed appreciation to the Host Nations team and the numerous groups who consistently reach out to the community and volunteer for charitable events. "You are what makes a great community for neighbors to Kwajalein and Roi."

Clarke ended by giving credit to the incoming commander and his family. "Joe and Dianne Gaines are no strangers to SMDC. There is no one more confident and committed than Joe Gaines. He is not only one of the best in his field of expertise but a Soldier that is known for his love of country and the people that he serves. I wish the Gaines family, the Command and the community the very best. From my family and from my heart, komol tata."

Lastly, incoming Commander Gaines addressed the audience.

"It's an honor and a privilege to be selected to command such a special base with a unique mission of national importance. It's a charge I promise to take very seriously over the next two years. It's also a privilege to be working with the most talented and dedicated work force of Soldiers, civilians, contractors and host nation personnel anywhere in the Department of Defense. I can tell you that the team here in Kwajalein has a well-earned reputation for getting the job done despite the challenges thrown in their path. That's something that I really want to be a part of. I'm especially excited to be working with the Marshallese leadership and the community. I look forward to building a strong partnership that Col. Clarke has fostered during his tenure here."

Gaines then took the time to recognize Clarke for his exceptional support during the transition of commanders. Upon being informed Gaines would take command at USAKA, Clarke invited Gaines to tour the facilities and meet some of the staff he would be working with.

"You might think this is the norm in the Army, but let me assure you it's not," Gaines stated. "Fred Clarke is an exceptional guy. For the last year Fred has done his best to keep me informed of the actions going on here so I'd be better prepared for this command. I look forward to meeting and working with each and every one of you and your families in the upcoming months. I promise you all my best effort for you and your families as we move forward in the future."

At that time, the audience rose for the playing of the Air Defense Artillery March, the Army Song and the departure of the official party. Both Clarke and Gaines held a receiving line so distinguished guests and community members could express their farewells, welcomes and well wishes.