A Fort Polk command change ceremony was held this morning, at Parkway Elementary. The event was hosted by Brenda Lee McCullough, Director of Installation Management Command, US Army.

A Fort Polk command change ceremony was held this morning, at Parkway Elementary. The event was hosted by Brenda Lee McCullough, Director of Installation Management Command, US Army.

After two years of service to the Fort Polk, JRTC community, Col. David "Gregg" Athey, Garrison Commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. David R. Pitt, are passing the baton to incoming Garrison Commander, Col. Jarrett A. Thomas II, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Dodson, Jr.

In a symbolic act, Athey handed the garrison colors over to Thomas, representing the transfer of responsibility.

McCullough said Athey was an outstanding garrison commander, and Fort Polk is gaining a very capable replacement. She pointed out that one of Athey's strengths was his ability to "balance the realities of a resource-constrained environment."

As garrison commander, he was innovative when facing challenges and provided superb leadership, said McCullough. Athey is especially well-known for his dedication to education, as a non-voting member of the Vernon Parish School Board.

"This has been one of the best experiences of my career," said Athey. He gave many heart-felt thank-yous to those who have supported him along the way, including his family. It was a bittersweet goodbye, at which Athey seemed to choke up, for just a moment, during his speech.

He elaborated on the contribution of military families who must be "self-reliant and independent so Soldiers can focus on serving the country.

"We developed a fantastic relationship with the surrounding community, as well as local and state government," said Athey. He noted the strong relationship between Vernon Parish and Fort Polk, thanking local residents and personnel, including Leesville Mayor Rick Allen and James "Jim" Tuck, Vernon Parish Police Jury President.

Athey commended Fort Polk Brigadier General Gary Brito for having faith in him as garrison commander.

"To serve people takes dignity and intelligence. We serve, but we are not servants," Athey said. "We, as the garrison, are the Army's home, serving the rugged professional."

Outgoing Command Sgt. Maj. Pitt said to Athey, "Thank you for doing everything in your power to make Fort Polk a place where we want to be, not just a place where we have to be." He welcomed Thomas and Dobson.

Thomas, incoming garrison commander, said he is looking forward to working with the "Fort Polk family." He and his family are eager to learn more about the unique culture of Louisiana.

"I am humbled to be here as your garrison commander. I promise you my best efforts, every day," said Thomas.

Incoming Command Sgt. Maj. Dodson thanked Pitt for helping him and his family with the transition to Fort Polk. "I am looking forward to being a part of the JRTC team," he said.

Dodson praised the Soldiers in formation at the event, saying they look good. He also conveyed his gratitude to his wife and daughter. "They have made so many sacrifices so I can continue to do what I love; serving my country."

The ceremony concluded with the entire group singing the Army song, and, finally, the retiring of the colors.

A reception was held immediately following the event, at the Warrior Community Activity Center.