By Amy PerryJuly 23, 2010
FORT LEE, Va. (July 22, 2010) -- Fort Lee welcomed its first, fully operational training unit for Army transportation students Friday.
During an early afternoon ceremony at the Army Logistics University, representatives from Fort Lee and Joint Base Langley-Eustis watched as Lt. Col. Timothy M. Gilhool and 1st Sgt. Teon M. Wright uncased the colors of the 71st Transportation Battalion. It's the first of several student organizations from the U.S. Army Transportation School moving here as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure decision and the creation of the Army's Sustainment Center of Excellence.
The 71st will be part of the ALU support team and, according to the university's acting president, Barbara Mroczkowski, the uncasing of the battalion colors is extremely symbolic. "It represents the strong foundation that the battalion will, in fact, provide for the university for many generations of logistics leaders in the future. It also marks what I consider to be the last phase of transition for the ALU."
The Army's Chief of Transportation, Brig. Gen. Brian R. Layer, also participated in the ceremony. He said he enjoyed his part in the historical event and described it as a "complete day" because he had the opportunity to see the colors cased at JBLE and uncased at Lee.
"It breaks your heart to see them cased, but it's a joy to see them uncased," Layer said. "Today, we move the great colors of the 71st Transportation Battalion here to a place where they are going to shift gears from what they have typically done for the Transportation School to a new chapter in their history of what they are going to do for the Logistics Corps at Fort Lee."
"It's an exciting future," he continued. "When you consider all the students who will pass through (the university) under these colors - the years of legacy that will follow - this is truly a great day."
Other highlights of the ceremony included a change of command and a change of responsibility. The outgoing leadership team of Gilhool and Wright, who were given the privilege of unveiling the battalion colors at the event, was replaced by the incoming command duo of Lt. Col. Stephanie E. Gradford and Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey R. Crawford.
As the ceremony shifted to the change of command, Layer took time to thank Gilhool for his efforts in standing up the student battalion.
"We needed a great leader to build this house - and that's exactly what he did. He built the foundation that will last for years to come," said Layer. "Tim, we would be remiss if we didn't say thank you for your great leadership, for your vision of what this battalion could be for ALU and for your vision inside of ALU."
Gilhool commanded the student battalion for less than a year, but said he enjoyed his time setting up the organization. He's moving to Fort Bragg where he will be the commander of the 782nd Brigade Support Battalion for the 82nd Airborne Division.
"Today is bittersweet," Gilhool said. "I will freely admit, I wrote this speech this morning. I really didn't want to."
"It has been a rollercoaster - at times frustrating, but amazingly enjoyable (to work with the) world-class group of Soldiers, Civilians and contractors at ALU."
Gilhool observed that the change of leadership was representative of Fort Lee's new mission of training quartermaster, ordnance and transportation military members. He served in the Quartermaster Corps, Gradford in the Transportation Corps, and the new command sergeant major in the Ordnance Corps.
The incoming commander, Gradford, is no stranger to Fort Lee. She previously served as the chief of the command planning group within the Combined Arms Support Command and Sustainment Center of Excellence headquarters. Brig. Gen. Layer described Gradford as an officer with an impressive Army career. "You couldn't have better qualifications to command a battalion," he said. "We have the right person at the right time to take charge of this great unit."
Battalion command has been the main focus of Gradford's military career, she said.
"To the Soldiers and Civilians of the 71st Transportation Battalion, I'm proud to assume command of this exceptional organization. One of the greatest privileges is to be in command. I pledge to ensure both military and civilian students at the Army Logistics University continue to receive world-class leadership and support from the battalion," Gradford said.
As the new lead NCO for the 71st, Crawford expressed similar sentiments, as well as a feeling of excitement.
"I look at it as an honor to serve, especially in the Army Logistics University," he said. "I'm being given an opportunity to affect the young leaders in our Army. I'm really looking forward to the challenge."