By Emily Tillman
There are moments when you know you are about to witness something special. Today as I drove through the winding roads of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, I know this would be one of those moments. In a ceremony at the fairly new headquarters today, Col. Teresa A Schlosser of Montana became the first female commander of the facility. In 2016 she became the first commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Far East District which is located in Korea. Though she followed in her grandfather’s footsteps in the military, he was a soldier stationed in Japan during World War II, she was the first female in her family to join.
The very first event was the welcome speech by LTC Chris Patterson, APR+M who is Director of Communications followed by the Arrival of the Official Party played onto the state by the 41st Army Band Brass Quintet.
“Key to the ceremony is the passing of the unit’s colors. The colors represent the lineage and honors of the unit as well as the loyalty and unity of its soldiers and civilians. The colors are the commanders symbol of authority representing his or her responsibilities to the organization. Wherever the commander goes there are also are the unit colors.” LTC Chris Patterson APR+M said in his speech. “The flag used in today’s ceremony is that of the US Army Engineer Regiment. The Corps flag, as we call it. This flag represents 240 years of service to the army and our nation.”
In the Passing of the Colors ceremony, ERDC Director Dr. David Pittman passed the colors to the outgoing commander for the last time.
Col. Beckman passes the colors to Major General Richard Kaiser signifying a successful completion of command.
Major General Kaiser passes the colors to Col Schlosser charging her with responsibility for the ERDC as its new commander.
Having assumed command, Col. Schlosser passes the colors to Dr. Pittman thus completing the change of command.
On behalf of the soldiers, families, scientists, and civilians a bouquet of red roses was presented to Haerin Beckman, Col Beckman’s wife. To honor the appreciation contributions and support made by family and loved ones.
A bouquet of white roses was presented to Mrs. Anne Beckman, Col. Beckman’s mother which symbolizes the purest and unwavering support for her son over his 30 year career.
A director’s coin was presented to Col Beckman’s father, Philip.
The traditional gift for an incoming spouse is a bouquet of yellow roses symbolizing hope and potential for the newly forming relationships. In keeping with the traditional color, but recognizing a unique situation, Col. Schlosser’s husband Tim was presented with a yellow shovel. This represented being able to “dig in” into the Vicksburg community.
The ceremony was rounded out by a speech by Major General Kaiser. “Vicksburg grows on you rapidly.” MG Kaiser said. He remarked on the accomplishments of ERDC such as aiding in the building of the lunar rover, and saving lives during the attacks during 9/11.
“I want to talk about my shoes,” Beckman began, “these shoes have carried me for the past 34 years. We bought them in 1986 at Rock Island, IL.” He went on to name the many places his shoes had carried him during his career, in a special thanks to his parents for always supporting him.
Col. Schlosser took the final speech calling ERDC the “Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory for Engineers.” She went on to say, “The more I learn about ERDC the more I’m amazed at the secrets you guys keep down here. You guys do so much. It is truly my honor to become part of this organization.” Being from Montana, and then living in Korea where both have very reserved cultures, moving to Vicksburg was quite the shock. A pleasant one however, “We were welcomed at kroger, at walmart, at the gas station. We have new friends at the laundromat.”
What does Col. Schlosser want to attack first? “The STEM outreach that we have I think is amazing, I would really like to continue that. We have some infrastructure struggles here where a lot of our facilities are very old. And the funding to get them replaced is pretty complicated. I think those will be the first two things I tackle.” Schlosser said to me during the press conference following the ceremony.
We, as a community, are very happy to have Col. Schlosser here today, and I am personally happy to have witnessed a major moment in history. Hear a special broadcast of the ceremony on Thursday on Newstalk 1490AM, 107.7FM, and newstalk1490.net at 9am