U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood bid farewell to Col. Eric Towns and welcomed Col. Jeffrey Paine in a garrison change-of-command ceremony today at Lincoln Hall Auditorium.
Brig. Gen. James Bonner, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, presided over the ceremony where Towns relinquished command to Paine.
Bidding farewell to Towns – who will next be deputy director of the Joint Requirements Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. – Bonner said the Army expected much from Towns as garrison commander and “he always made it look easy.”
“There’s no specific path to prepare a leader for Installation Management Command, yet much is required of them,” he said. “They serve multiple organizations, and must prioritize, integrate and deliver quality base support operations to our most precious assets – our people.”
Although Towns and his team had many achievements during the past two years, Bonner singled out the commitment shown to the Fort Leonard Wood community and its people during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“During his command, they navigated an IMCOM reorganization, massive (U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command) training load, increased housing concern and a global pandemic,” he said. “Man, that is enough to cause anyone to break a sweat, but as I talk to members of the community, it is clear this command team achieved great things under pressure and always supported their senior commander’s priorities.”
According to Bonner, Paine – who comes to Fort Leonard Wood from the Pentagon, where he worked as Director of Joint Staff Special Access Programs Central Office – brings “extensive experience” in command roles.
“Your adaptability, management skills and critical thinking capabilities will continue to carry success here,” Bonner said. “I’m confident you’re prepared to take on this garrison and will build on the phenomenal success of your predecessor.”
In departing Fort Leonard Wood, Towns said he will cherish the friendships he made during his years in the Ozarks.
“It’s been a whirlwind two years,” he said. “Before I took command of a garrison, there were a lot of things I took for granted, and I didn’t quite understand the enormity of the mission.”
Towns listed some of the daily tasks executed and award-winning accomplishments made at Fort Leonard Wood over the past two years, including the initiation of jet service at Forney Airfield, the groundbreaking for the new General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital and the restoration of Countee Hall. He also mentioned that annually more than 12,000 ID cards are issued, 80,000 pieces of official mail are processed, more than one million meals are served in the dining facilities, and 250 miles of road and 27 miles of railroad track are maintained.
“I do have a dirty little secret,” he said. “I didn’t issue a single ID card, I didn’t prepare a single meal in the DFAC, I didn’t process anybody at the gate, nor did I maintain a single foot of that roadway. The 1,400-plus (Department of the Army) civilians, (non-appropriated fund) employees and contractors came to work every day to make that happen … I appreciate everything you’ve done and will do at this installation.”
Paine thanked his family and friends and said he looks forward to his first assignment at Fort Leonard Wood.
“Under normal conditions, taking America’s sons and daughters and turning them into Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines … is absolutely a daunting task, and this team here does it with commitment, professionalism and style,” he said. “With the COVID-19 pandemic, your accomplishments have absolutely become Herculean and incomparable to anything I have ever seen. I am really humbled to get to play a small part in that and to support you in your mission.”