- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 18, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM:

Fort Meade, Md. | The Army’s 1st Recruiting Brigade, which recruits young men and women for service, welcomed a new commander June 5. Col. Frank R. Hall relieved Col. Patrick M. Gawkins in a ceremony presided over by the Army’s commanding general for U.S. Army recruiting, Maj. Gen. Donald M. Campbell.

The change-of-command ceremony is a time-honored tradition that celebrates the service of the outgoing commander and aims to inspire the new leader.

Recruiting is perhaps one of the Army’s most challenging and necessary endeavors. Because the United States’ commitments abroad require a large ground force, the Army as an organization must find creative new ways to recruit and support those obligations.

The 1st Brigade is charged with an expansive area of responsibility that covers Maine to Virginia and parts of Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio. The area is administered by eight recruiting battalions, each assigned to smaller areas of responsibility. Led by Col. Gawkins, the 1st Recruiting Brigade amassed impressive recruitment numbers. Col. Gawkins‘ “Victory Brigade” recruited 33,536 soldiers to active Army service and 11,421 to the Army Reserve in a little more than two years.

He was responsible for “near 4 divisions’ worth of soldiers,” Gen. Campbell said.

Minutes before the ceremony, Col. Gawkins was decorated with the Legion of Merit for his service to Victory Brigade. The award, which was commissioned in 1943 under an executive order by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, honors meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to members of the armed services.

Held in Fort Meade’s Post Hall because of inclement weather, the ceremony began with a performance by the U.S. Army Materiel Command Band from Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.

“[It is an] honor and a privilege to serve as commander of this brigade,” Col. Hall remarked.

Col. Hall has extensive experience in military intelligence. He graduated from Western Carolina University in 1985 and then served in the 105th Military Intelligence Battalion. After 24 years in mostly intelligence positions, he is taking on the new challenge of recruitment.

He said he is confident that his intelligence skills will be useful as commander of this brigade.

“My analytic background in intelligence will be useful in evaluating problems and creating solutions,” he said. In his view, this will give him a distinct advantage as a leader of the group.

With every change of command comes the inherent challenge of a shift in leadership. Col. Hall is a sharp leader who should make short work of such problems. He describes himself as a linear thinker and a straight-forward leader - both qualities that should prove useful.

Col. Gawkins said he is confident in Victory Brigade’s incoming commander. “America requires the best and brightest, and I expect that the colonel will continue to recruit those to the service,” he said during the ceremony.

• David Centofante is a graduate student at Missouri State University’s Department of Defense and Strategic Studies.

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