By Allen ShawJuly 18, 2011
Allen Shaw, Fort Wainwright PAO
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - Members of the Fort Wainwright and Fairbanks North Star Borough communities celebrated a change of garrison command Friday, as well as a retirement ceremony for the outgoing commander, Col. Timothy A. Jones.
Under a threatening sky the two ceremonies went off without a hitch as Mrs. Debra Zedalis, director, Pacific Region, Installation Management Command presided over the passing of the colors, relinquishing command from Jones to Col. Ronald M. Johnson.
“I don’t remember ever being part of a change of command where the same three players were involved three years ago,” said Zedalis, referring to the fact that Johnson held the garrison commander position when Jones took the helm in 2008.
Johnson is returning to Fort Wainwright after serving as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command.
Immediately following the change of command, Jones, who is retiring after 27 years of service, was honored with a certificate of appreciation from President Barack Obama, Commander-in-Chief. Jones also received a certificate retirement signed by General Martin E. Dempsey, United States Army Chief of Staff and was awarded the Legion of Merit medal for “exceptionally meritorious service.”
Theresa Jones also received a letter of appreciation from the Army Chief of Staff and the Commander’s Award for Public Service from Zedalis.
During his speech, Jones said he had only commanded combat units before coming to Fort Wainwright and thought leading a garrison would be different. “But I was wrong,” he said, “the battles have just been different. Budget battles, board structure battles, battles with regulators, battles with irate hunters.” His comments prompted chuckles from the crowd. “Some we won, some we lost, some seemed to be like the Cold War or the War on Terror and go on and on.” Jones said.
Jones kept most of the speech light-hearted, talking about the different uniform changes he has seen during his career. “I’ve seen three uniform changes from OG107’s to BDU’s to ACU’s, four if you count jungle fatigues, 5 if you count the new Afghanistan pattern uniforms,” Jones said, “We’ve gone from patrol caps to berets and back to patrol caps and sometimes berets.”
He also thanked his family. Jones said to his wife, “Sweetheart, you’ve carried more than your share of the load and you’ve been a true Army wife. Last month we celebrated 25 years of marriage and that means more to me than anything I’ve achieved in my military career. I look forward to the next 25,” he said. He continued by telling his children how proud he was of them.
“For my kids, Megan, John and Daniel, as for Army kids everywhere there’s no fairness in your sacrifice, pulled continuously from the comfort of friends and familiar environments,” he said. “Whether coming home from a year-long deployment or just after a long day, you give me strength.”
Jones spoke about the 183 campaign streamers that make up the colors. The first streamer reads, “Lexington-1775,” the last one reads, “Iraqi Surge-2007-2008”. “Behind each of those streamers, every one, there are thousands of faces, faces of Americans, faces of ordinary men and women who achieved extraordinary things, many who have never returned,” he said.
“I carry into retirement the memories of three Soldiers who served and perished under my command. Chief Warrant Officer Andy Porter, Chief Warrant Officer Eric Koesterson, Sgt. Warren Hansen.” Jones said, “Each of these men gave their last full measure of devotion. I can only pray I have honored their memories with my service.”
Jones gave credit to the civilian workforce that supports the Army, as well as the contract partners and privatization partners. He requested that the next time Soldiers have the opportunity, “thank them for their service,” he said.
During his speech, Johnson, the incoming garrison commander also gave credit to the post personnel who made him want to return (to this duty station). He said, “When you’re looking in the mirror scratching your heads wondering how this happened, well you’ve got only yourselves to blame.”
Although Jones spoke of mixed emotions about leaving the Army, he said he was comforted by what awaits him outside the gate and said Fairbanks is where they will stay. “We’ve felt at home here from day one and Theresa and I look forward to remaining here and serving this community in a different capacity.”
In closing Jones told those who witnessed the dual ceremony, “I am truly a blessed man. I’ve got a great family, great friends, a great life and I don’t have to say good-bye, only, see you around,” he said.