FORT POLK, La. -- The end was written to one chapter of Fort Polk's history and a new one began Jan. 7 as Brig. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn took the reins of leadership of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk from Brig. Gen. James Yarbrough during a change of command ceremony on Honor Field.
Gen. James D. Thurman, commanding general for Forces Command, hosted the event.
"A change of command ceremony is as much about recognizing great Soldiers, civilians and Army Families as it is about incoming and outgoing commanders," Thurman told a crowd that included Soldiers representing all units on Fort Polk, as well as elected officials, civilian employees, Family members and retirees.
Thurman listed some of Yarbrough's achievements during his 30 months at the helm of JRTC and Fort Polk. He mentioned post additions such as a go-cart track, mini-mall, shopping plaza and community centers.
"Since taking the guidon, General Yarbrough has been on a personal crusade to make this installation a world-class military community," he said. "The results are obvious; Jim Yarbrough has been deeply involved in advancing each of these efforts."
Thurman also highlighted Yarbrough's accomplishments as a Soldier.
"Jim is an excellent trainer and has proven that with every unit he has touched," Thurman said.
Thurman then addressed the incoming commander.
"General Chinn is a proven leader of immense capability and worthy of increased responsibility," he said. "He brings a wealth of experience in both collective training and combat leadership. For the past 29 years he has served in some of the most challenging assignments in our Army.
"General Chinn is the right man at the right place at the right time."
Yarbrough followed Thurman to the podium. He thanked his staff and unit leaders for his success.
"Cathy and I have been blessed and privileged to serve with such a group of professionals," he said. "This post, this period of time, this mission and this team, Fort Polk is a crown jewel for our Army career and has surpassed our wildest dreams.
"I'm the luckiest guy in the whole Army."
Yarbrough told the Soldiers in formation on Honor Field it was an honor to serve beside them.
"We'll always consider this assignment the highlight of our career," he said.
Chinn spoke next. He thanked Yarbrough for the work he and his wife, Cathy, did during their tenure on Fort Polk.
"You've set Val (spouse) and me up for success," he said.
Chinn then addressed the Soldiers.
"You're a picture of strength and spirit that is fitting of those living the legend here at the Home of Heroes," he said. "Val and I are excited to be part of the Fort Polk team, and know that we will keep making a difference in building our Army strong as we train and prepare units for deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation New Dawn and world-wide, full spectrum operations along with supporting the deployed Soldiers and their Family members.
"Our family is honored to serve here with you, as our motto states, 'the best hometown in the Army.'"
Following the ceremony, Chinn spoke to the media about what he wants to bring to Fort Polk.
"It's critical that we continue to train everyone and prep them for the battlefield," he said. "I don't want a Soldier or leader to look back after they get to Afghanistan or Iraq and ask, 'What if'"
"We have the Army's best leaders here; they are what makes the difference."
Chinn said his goal is ensure training continues to be focused, realistic and relevant.
"I want the Families of those Soldiers assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, to be confident that their Soldiers are well trained," he said. "The transition has been phenomenal; we plan to continue to stay on the same path General Yarbrough set."
An overflow crowd filled the seats at Honor Field for the ceremony. Retired Soldier Neville Brown said he wishes both Yarbrough and Chinn the best.
"It's nice to have a new commander in the area," Brown said. "The ceremony was outstanding; I'm glad I came out to support Fort Polk."
Jim Jackson, a retired colonel and representative of the American Legion, and his wife, Connie, made the drive to Fort Polk from Lake Charles. He said he always enjoys attending Army ceremonies.
"A full pass and review gets me every time," he said. "I come to these ceremonies and look at them and think, 'I'd go back into the Army tomorrow."
Jackson said it had been a pleasure working with Yarbrough.
"Leaders like him are few and far between," he said. "General Chinn has to replace quite a Soldier; Yarbrough understood people and retirees like me. He took as good care of us as he did the Soldiers."
Connie Jackson said she would remember Yarbrough as a caring commander.
"We've lived a lot of places," she said. "Not all communities have been as warm and welcoming as the Fort Polk community. We're confident it will continue to be that way under Chinn."
The ceremony included music by the 1st Cavalry Division Band from Fort Hood, Texas, and a cannon salute by Alpha Battery, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Hood.
Chinn is a 1981 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. During his assignment with 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, he participated in the combat parachute assault onto the island of Grenada in support of Operation Urgent Fury. He also took part in the night combat parachute assault into Torrijos-Tocumen Airfield, Panama, during Operation Just Cause. He also served with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Most recently he served as the deputy commanding general (support) of the 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps.