By By Maureen Rose, Fort KnoxJuly 21, 2011
The Fort Knox Garrison has a new commander and the transition was heralded with the Army’s customary traditions in a change of command ceremony July 14, hosted by Davis Tindoll, the Installation Management Command’s Director of the Southeast Region.
The new commander is Col. Bruce Jenkins, previously with the USA Pacific Command, where he served as the Plans, Readiness, and Exercise Branch Chief; Program Division Chief; and the Military Resources Management Division Chief.
In his remarks to the packed house at Waybur Theater, Mr. Tindoll reminded the audience how difficult a garrison commander’s job can be.
“Our mission is to supply a quality of life for Soldiers and their Families commensurate to their service; garrison commands are crucial to that mission accomplishment,” Mr. Tindoll said. “It’s a tough job, though, because the Army doesn’t train anyone to be a garrison commander. But it does train leaders.”
He commended Col. Rick Schwartz, the departing garrison commander, for his performance during the particularly difficult challenges ensuing from the Base Realignment and Closure directives: Fort Knox transformed from the home of Armor to a multifunctional installation. In spite of the many changes of Soldiers arriving and leaving, commands inactivating and standing up, and perennial construction projects, Fort Knox was tapped for a Community of Excellence award in 2009, placing third out of 168 garrison commands.
“This was a direct reflection of Rich Schwartz’s leadership,” Mr. Tindoll said. “He fostered a climate of Soldiers first, people always.”
Although many will be sad to see Col. Schwartz leave, Mr. Tindoll assured the staff that the garrison would be in good hands.
“Col. Bruce Jenkins has commanded in Kuwait and Iraq; he has impeccable credentials for garrison command,” Mr. Tindoll said.
In his emotional farewell remarks, Col. Schwartz thanked his team of directors and all who helped him learn “to be a good and faithful servant.”
“It has been a privilege to lead the talented professionals called Team Garrison; I can’t find the words to thank you, but my life has been enriched by serving with you,” Col. Schwartz said.
To the many community representatives and civic leaders, Col. Schwartz added, “You opened your hearts, your hands, your homes to make Fort Knox a place to raise families. You made Soldiers feel at home here. You demonstrated that patriotism is an action, not a word.”
Col. Jenkins said it was obvious how highly regarded the Schwartz family was on Fort Knox.
“I am well aware of the great gift I have been given,” Col. Jenkins said. “I’m the benefactor of the hard work of Rick and Nancy Schwartz.”
In an interview just prior to the ceremony, Col. Jenkins explained that he has been very impressed by the work that has been done by Col. Schwartz and the garrison team members.
“From my foxhole, they are doing a great job,” he said. “Everybody works hard.”
Col. Jenkins has been communicating with Col. Schwartz and has already attended a strategic planning committee meeting with Fort Knox garrison directors earlier this spring.
“I don’t feel I’m arriving blindfolded,” Col. Jenkins said. “I’m familiar with the community of excellence work and we’ve already begun planning for the next COE. I don’t think my learning curve will be too steep; I’m already comfortable here.”
With a background in Human Resources, Col. Jenkins said his job as the commander of the Base Camp in Kuwait, he was responsible for many of the same logistical areas that a garrison commander oversees.
“We supported 5,000 Soldiers per day; we never shut down, we were going 24/7,” he explained. “We were the staging platform (for Soldiers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan).”
Col. Jenkins described himself as an “operational guy” who will ask lots of questions from garrison consumers, talk with many employees, and ensure the focus remains on caring for Soldiers, their Families, and Department of the Army civilians.
“I lead by getting out; I don’t spend much time at a desk,” he said. “Any place Soldiers and Family members hang out, you might see me. I like to talk with the gate guards.
“Customer service is a big key; anything that needs improvement, we will make that happen quickly.
“I will do my best to keep Fort Knox as the gold standard of excellence,” he promised at the ceremony. “There is no better quality or competent command team than this.”