Thursday, May 23, 2013
Former Commander Returns to His Post at Fort Wainwright
Col. Tim Jones handed over the keys of Fort Wainwright to Col. Ron Johnson at a ceremony on the post parade grounds Friday afternoon.
FAIRBANKS — Col. Tim Jones handed over the keys of Fort Wainwright to Col. Ron Johnson at a ceremony on the post parade grounds Friday afternoon.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the reverse of the ceremony three years ago when Johnson passed his command of the Fort Wainwright Garrison to Jones.
Johnson is returning to Fairbanks after a stint as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Special Forces Command to retake command of the garrison. Jones, meanwhile, is retiring from the Army, but plans to stay in Fairbanks with his family.
The position of garrison commander is something like being the mayor of Fort Wainwright, an Army post which serves some 6,000 soldiers, 8,000 family members and 1,200 civilians.
Jones described his outgoing command in a speech that drew lots of laughs. Before coming to Fort Wainwright, he had only commanded combat units, he said. He had thought leading a garrison would be very different but found he was wrong.
“The battles have just been different,” he said. “Budget battles, board structure battles, battles with regulators, battles with irate hunters. Some we won, some we lost some seemed to be like the Cold War or the War on Terror and go on and on.”
Under Jones’ command the post went through several major changes including the privatization of the post’s utilities and the deployments of several Wainwright units to Iraq and Afghanistan. Jones also completed transforming the post from a sub-installation to a direct-reporting garrison which added 400 civilian employees to post.
It’s unusual for a garrison commander to return to a post for a second command. Johnson said his return was divine providence, but also gave some of the credit to post personnel who made him want to return.
“When you’re looking in the mirror scratching your heads wondering how this happened, well you’ve got only yourselves to blame,” he aid.
A retirement ceremony celebrating Jones’ 27-years of service followed the change of command.
This ceremony culminated with the performance of a medley of military song associated with his career from the West Point March to the United States Army Alaska March.
Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545