By Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentAugust 7, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- After years of calling Joint Base Lewis-McChord home, Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. finally has the chance to truly pay his dues to the community that has served him and his family for more than a decade.
Hodges officially took charge of the installation Aug. 7 from Col. Thomas Brittain, who came on board in July 2009 and led the forefront of merging two single-service installations, Fort Lewis and McChord Field, into one combined base in 2010.
"It truly is the culmination of a 10-year process of being around here, to finally come back and take command, and work with the great folks I've been dealing with for 10 years and being part of their team," said Hodges, who first served on then-Fort Lewis in 2002 as a battalion executive officer with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, and later returned to command the same battalion for three years.
Following his time as a battalion commander, Hodges joined I Corps as its director of training. Most recently, he attended the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., for the last 10 months.
"It's sort of the completion of a circle," he said, explaining that in his time working with Stryker brigade Soldiers and the Corps staff he was always on the receiving side of resources and support for Soldiers.
Now, he has the opportunity to provide them for an entire community -- not just Soldiers, but Airmen, civilians and Families as well.
"Having been the receiver of services, whether it be training services or services for the Soldiers, you interacted with those all the time," he added. "It got you a perspective on the Soldier side -- what their needs are, what their Families' needs are, and now you have a chance to go out there and potentially help support them even more."
Standing before separate formations on Watkins Field of Soldiers, civilians and Airmen responsible for the delivery of services to troops and their families on JBLM, Hodges made four pledges he promises to stick to during his time as the installation's commander.
He vowed to provide troops and their Families the best possible facilities and services -- places, he said, where customer service and satisfaction will always remain top priorities.
"They deserve and will get the support commensurate of their service and sacrifice," he said.
The new leader also guaranteed to ensure a community in which friendly and efficient Soldier and Airmen cooperation on the Department of Defense's largest Army-led joint base constantly thrives.
"It takes a team of teams, regardless of the color of the uniform, to succeed and serve our nation," he said. "We fight jointly, and it is time we live and train that way as well."
Hodges also promised to persistently find ways to conserve water and electricity, protect the land and air, and sustain government money and resources as best he and his team can.
Lastly, he swore to excel at his job as installation commander so that units across JBLM can worry about their own respective missions at hand.
"My team runs the base so that you and your commanders can focus on the task of training, preparing, equipping and deploying your units to meet the requirements of the nation, whatever they may be," Hodges told those in attendance.
But getting up to speed, he said, will be easier said than done, with such big shoes to fill as Brittain leaves his long list of accomplishments behind.
He likened it to merging with highway traffic.
"I'm merging into traffic in a Volkswagen, and the traffic's going 90 miles an hour," he said. "The responsibility is on me to work as hard as I can to get up to speed so we keep the train rolling down the tracks."
Lieutenant Gen. Michael Ferriter, commanding general of the Army's Installation Management Command at San Antonio, Texas, who presided over the ceremony, said the job of an installation commander is no position to be envied.
"Commanding an installation is perhaps the most complex job that the Army can give to a colonel-level commander," Ferriter said. "They perform a myriad of duties that normally would require a Master's Degree in Business Administration and several degrees in psychology, social work and education."
"It takes a lot of talent, and energy and heart, and inspired leadership to deliver," he added, praising the many achievements of Brittain and concluding that JBLM is lucky to have had him.
Ferriter called JBLM a model for DOD joint bases to follow and said that, with Brittain's efforts, the base has become "the most capable power projection platform imaginable."
Brittain struggled to fight back tears as he dubbed his time as JBLM commander the most rewarding experience in his 26 years of Army service.
"It was all because of the great people that I had the privilege of serving with," he told the hundreds representing the JBLM community. "I'm deeply indebted to each of you."
Brittain steps down as the installation's commander in preparation for his new assignment as chief of staff for JBLM's 7th Infantry Division, which is scheduled to stand up officially in October and will oversee five of the base's 10 brigades.
Not even a day into his tenure, Hodges said he plans to get up close and personal with his new community by traveling the base and setting foot in the boots of the Soldiers and Airmen who keep it running successfully each day.
"There's so many great and wonderful people doing such a diverse level of jobs, and I want to go off and experience what they're doing," he said. "For instance, if you're a refueler on the McChord Field side filling up airplanes. Okay, I'm sort of responsible for that, but what does it really mean?
"To get out their, walk in their boots and do their jobs is personally very valuable for me, to sort of give me that perspective."