Incoming White Sands Missile Range Garrison Commander Col. Ryan Howell passes the guidon back to Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Parker as outgoing Garrison Commander Col. Christopher Ward faces away during a virtual Change of Command ceremony July 14 on post.
White Sands Missile Range welcomed a new Garrison Commander during a virtual Change of Command ceremony as outgoing Garrison Commander Col. Christopher J. Ward relinquished command to incoming Garrison Commander Col. Ryan Howell July 14 on post.
Brenda Lee McCullough, Director, Installation Management Command-Readiness, participated in the ceremony via telecom.
"COVID-19 has impacted and even eliminated many activities," McCullough said. "But it is important that we maintain our time honored traditions. I thank you all for your understanding and for your virtual attendance."
McCullough said Col. Ward's contributions will have a lasting impact on White Sands Missile Range. "I know Chris will tell you that the installation team is responsible for these accomplishments. Chris and the entire White Sands Garrison provided essential support to White Sands Senior commander Brig. Gen. David Trybula by balancing the realities of a resource constrained environment," she said.
She went on to say that Ward's leadership and vision were the driving force for much of the garrison success.
"Col. Ward led the White Sands Garrison through an Army wide housing crisis, a global pandemic and two Bataan Memorial Death Marches," she said. "Through all this Col. Ward provided effective and efficient support to a complicated installation with a complex mission."
McCullough went on to say that Col. Ward met these challenges through collaborations, strategic planning and partnerships that included United States Army Test and Evaluation Command, an outstanding civilian workforce, state and local community leaders and the New Mexico congressional members.
She pointed out that he participated with the Mescalero Apache Tribal Council for their blessing ceremony in the Oscura Mountains. "This is the first time the ceremony has happened at this location in over 100 years. This outstanding engagement cemented the relationship with the Apache Tribes and the White Sands team."
McCullough went on to say that during his command Col. Ward efficiently and effectively executed an annual budget of 97 million dollars.
He completed White Sands' first Intergovernmental Support Agreement. "This agreement between WSMR and the South Central Solid Waste Authority will cut the White Sands refuse and recycling cost in half."
She said he also continued to improve the facilities and services on the installation while always looking towards the future. "He facilitated the agreement of the White Sands IHG hotel to move forward with the renovation of the current facility, and under his watch Navy Federal Credit Union was selected to join the team and provide a new full service branch."
"Chris, thank you for your service to WSMR and IMCOM. This garrison and community are richer as a result of his leadership," she said. "Alright Chris, go pack and get to Fort Bragg, the readiness team is waiting for you."
"Like Col. Ward, Col. Ryan Howell is a proven leader. He is ideally suited to lead the White Sands team and supporting the priorities and requirements set by Brig. Gen. Trybula and the IMCOM priorities set," McCullough said.
"I am fully confident that you will lead this garrison with the same professionalism, pride and expertise that you have demonstrated throughout your career."
Richard Meador, Executive Director of WSMR, on Monday, via the weekly COVID-19 video, thanked Col. Ward and the garrison team for all they have done during the COVID-19 crisis.
"Col. Chris Ward has served with such excellent leadership and service over the past two years," he said. "We look forward to working with Col. Howell and his family."
Ward was next to speak and he thanked everyone for attending and tuning in virtually.
"What a ride it has been in this great garrison of White Sands Missile Range," he said. "For the past two years we, as a collective team, have navigated with two DoD crises in reference to the housing and COVID-19."
"We assured countless tests and evaluations happened in support of Army modernization priorities and long range precision fires and Army integrated air and missile defense projects, ensuring America is ready for potential future conflicts with systems that will save lives in the future," Ward said.
Ward said WSMR further strengthened its ties and partnership with their partners in Las Cruces in terms of service agreements, business, education and job opportunities for college graduates in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math and other various fields.
"This is such a great place to live and work and it shows every day with the involvement and attitude of everyone, and the spirit of the community," Ward said.
He went on to say that the garrison crew grew the Bataan Memorial Death March by 20 percent over the last two years with two consecutive record breaking years of registered participants. The last one breaking the 10,000 registered participants mark. "No small feat for the entire team."
"It doesn't take but a month or two in command to really appreciate what this team can do and the importance that Army civilians bring to the table," Ward said. "I saw this quickly after assuming command following a down pour of rain that washed out two main roads. That night crews from the Department of Public Roads cleared the roads by the start of the work day, allowing employees to come to work and do their jobs. I could stand here all morning and brag about the team – they really are rock stars."
Ward thanked his team of leaders, employees, community members and members of the surrounding communities for their support. "You made it matter."
He also thanked his wife and children. "Your love and support is everything."
Ward then welcomed Howell and his family. "I know the garrison is in good hands. You are more than prepared to lead this garrison."
As the incoming garrison commander Howell thanked those who attended and tuned in virtually.
"Thank you for this opportunity and the amazing welcome you have given us. It is an honor to join the ranks and be members of the team."
Howell than thanked his wife and daughter for their support.
"We are excited to be here and to be part of the community."