White Sands Missile Range welcomed Garrison Commander Col. Ryan Howell to the community during a virtual Change of Command ceremony July 14.
Howell, who grew up in Statesville, North Carolina, said growing up in a family with a desire to help others and serve in the military is what led him to join the U.S. Army.
"My mom was a school teacher and my dad served in the military, so it was a combination of wanting to do something for others," he said.
Howell comes to WSMR from the U.S. Army War College at the University of Denver. Before that he served at U.S. Northern Command.
As for his plans during his time at WSMR, Howell said he wants to build upon the current successes put in place by the leaders before him.
"I don't want to change just to change," he said. "I realize there are a lot of good things that are going on here, so we can spring board from that and help the team make positive changes."
"At the end of the day we are a customer service organization, so we need to ask how the Garrison can better take care of the community and make sure that our community is getting what they need."
Howell said he has been fortunate to have had a fairly diverse career and has worked in bases with partners in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I feel comfortable understanding that the biggest thing I can do as the garrison commander is to ensure that I am enabling team work and that free flow of good ideas," he said. "I need to make sure community members can voice what they need and we can listen and in turn provide the best services."
Howell said it is important to make sure he maintains the ability to be approachable and at the same time ensure that he understands what the big Army mission is as well as WSMR Commander Brig. Gen. Dave Trybula's plan for WSMR.
"When you put all that together and blend it together it is a good place to be at as a team."
"The best advice I was given as a leader is that we have two ears and one mouth, so you can listen more than you talk."
Unlike others before him, Howell said his time at WSMR will be somewhat different when you take into account the challenges of what he calls COVID fatigue.
"Everybody is tired," he said. "It has been a stressful time - people have been asked to do a lot of things and wear several hats, especially at home."
From parents being asked to home school their children and figuring out how to telework, and at the same time not being able to see or interact with family and friends, Howell said everyone is feeling the stress.
"The biggest thing I am trying to make sure I am aware of is understanding that we all have what I refer to as COVID fatigue, because it has worn us down," he said. "So how can we as a team make sure that we are maintaining our resilience? We need to make sure those around us are doing all right and we need to be asking if they need help or if they need to take time to rest."
Howell said things that were already difficult at home before COVID are super difficult now because of COVID.
"I've found that although we have to social distance and need to stay at home more than before, it is important that we continue that human interaction and connection," he said. "We have to be able to reach out to our team mates and make sure everyone is doing o.k."
"I think it is important that we don't lose sight of the fact that there is still a human factor to all this and we've got to make sure that we have those interactions with our team mates and look out for each other during these stressful times."
Moving on to the topic of accomplishments Howell said his personal best accomplishment is being blessed with a great family, his wife and daughter.
Professionally speaking Howell said he is proud to be able to have the opportunity to serve as the Garrison Commander for WSMR.
"I think it is a huge honor anytime the Army gives you an opportunity to lead," Howell said. "That is something I don't take lightly. It is an amazing and humbling opportunity. I understand the duty that I've been charged to do. I have to make sure that each time I come to work I do what is best for the team."
As for being assigned to WSMR, Howell said he likes the fact that WSMR is almost the perfect size that you can truly have a real community experience. Growing up in a rural area, Howell said he remembers people waving at each other when they drove down the road or anytime when they were walking around the neighborhood.
"That is the kind of feeling I get here at WSMR, a hometown community," Howell said. "Although WSMR as a missile range is large, the garrison footprint is smaller, so you get to know people and people get to know you and interact with you more often."
During his free time Howell said he and his wife enjoy spending time with their daughter, who recently started walking and is discovering new things. "We enjoy chasing after her and seeing the world through her eyes."
Howell said he really appreciates the opportunity to join the WSMR community. "It means a lot to my family and I that we've been welcomed into the community and we sincerely feel like we are members of the community. We look forward to our time here."