The command flag of the “Steadfast With Support” battalion changed hands June 13 as Lt. Col. David L. Thompson relinquished his position to Lt. Col. Damon F. Bennett at a ceremony held in Ball Auditorium on the Ordnance Campus.
Bennett previously served with the Defense Logistics Agency at Fort Belvoir. His military career started in 2001 when he was commissioned as a field artillery officer. He soon transitioned to the Quartermaster Corps and has since served in positions of increasing responsibility within combat arms and major Army command elements. He has deployed to Southwest Asia three times.
Col. Daniel P. Ellinger, 59th Ord. Brigade commander, passed the 832nd Ord. Battalion colors from Thompson to Bennett. Those observing the formalities included Brig. Gen. Heidi Hoyle, Chief of Ordnance; Brig. Gen. Douglas McBride Jr., Quartermaster General; and Col. Jered Helwig, Chief of Transportation.
In remarks, Ellinger quickly put the moment into perspective by noting who the outgoing commander represents – the 1,300 Soldiers in the 832nd today and the 11,000 who passed through the battalion during Thompson’s tenure. “They may not be here (because the ceremony was moved indoors),” he noted, “but it is most assuredly about them and the great things they have accomplished under Lt. Col. Thompson’s leadership.”
Highlighting significant achievements of the departing commander, Ellinger said the 832nd team successfully created and executed two Ammo Transfer Handling Point “crucible” events in which Army teams from various locations demonstrated their knowledge of moving, storing and securing munitions.
“They were an opportunity to show the pride and professionalism of our corps, and at the same time, they shaped TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) within the operational force,” Ellinger said.
Thompson and his team also “spearheaded implementation of a rigorous three-night, three-day tactical and technically integrated FTX … to prepare professional Ordnance Soldiers for their future,” Ellinger continued. “Under his leadership, the battalion fulfilled its primary mission of preparing thousands of professional OD Soldiers in 17 different MOSs to be ready on arrival at the first duty station and to have the skills, desire and ability to complete their first assignment and be on the path for a successful career.
“Lt. Col. Thompson has been critical to his battalion, our brigade and the Army Ordnance School’s success in building the future … of the Ordnance Corps,” the colonel acknowledged. “Today, we celebrate the accomplishments of the 832nd Ord. Bn., and thank Lt. Col. Thompson for his dedication, commitment to excellence and tenacity to always advocate and do what’s right for our Soldiers.”
Thompson has been reassigned to Fort Stewart, Ga., where he will serve as deputy commander for the 3rd Infantry Division sustainment brigade.
Ellinger noted how the “legacy of great commanders” continues with Bennett, an “enormously successful” officer with an incredible resume. “He is the right commander to lead the Steadfast With Support Battalion into the future,” the colonel said. “Damon, on behalf of all Power Soldiers, past and present, welcome. We look forward to serving with you.”
Thompson’s departing remarks included humorous glimpses of what it means to serve at Fort Lee as well as insightful thoughts about leadership and the Soldier profession. He organized the speech into chapters, relating it to a book titled “The Things They Carry” by Tim O’Brien.
Chapter 1, his government-issued iPhone, would be “happily turned in,” after the ceremony, he said to an already chuckling audience. Chapter 2 is a laser pointer that he carries because “you just never know.” Chapter 3 is the keys to his 2006 Pontiac GTO with 400 horsepower that he was limited to driving 25 mph on post for two years.
“I only hope after the damage that speed cost me I’ll be able to make it Georgia,” he sarcastically said.
Thompson’s tone became more emotional with chapter 4, his wedding band. “I’ve carried and worn it for 21 years. Thanks to my beautiful bride for enduring the past 25 months and maintaining our incredible marriage. My next unit has the motto ‘heart of a rock,’ and Melissa Thompson, you are my rock, and I love you more today than ever before.”
Chapter 5 of the things he carries is his battle buddy card, from which he read passages such as “I can always count on and contact my battle buddy.”
A quote he heard as a young captain attending a Sergeant Major Academy graduation at Fort Bliss, Texas, has stuck with him over the years, he said. “Every Soldier has a sergeant. That statement has resonated with me every time I’ve … achieved a milestone in my career. A Soldier should have to look no farther than his or her sergeant for guidance, training, enthusiasm and assistance of all types.
“For the past 25 months,” he continued, “I was privileged to have Command Sgt. Maj. Dejarius Jones as my sergeant. If you do the math, we spent more time together than we did with our families. Thank you so much for being my sergeant. You’re forever part of my soul.”
An additional tag added to the military issued ID tags around his neck is chapter six. It bears a quote, “Have no Soldier cry out, ‘had I only been trained.’”
“We have no greater task than to prepare our aspiring professional ordnance Soldiers for the unforgiving crucible of ground combat,” Thompson said. “Training and Doctrine Command and the American public fully expect us to provide lethal, technically competent and ready Soldiers who are able to contribute upon arrival at their first unit of assignment. The reality of that is it doesn’t happen by accident or by some sort of strange coincidence, but rather by the collective team of teams that execute our training mission every day.”
His chapter 7 is the 832nd Ordnance Battalion coin he carried daily. It’s more than just a piece of engraved and polished metal, he said. “It represents the continuous pursuit of organizational excellence. Being more than we appear. Being driven by humility, will and intellectual curiosity. It symbolizes getting after our assigned mission, developing leaders and most importantly taking care of our great Soldiers. The symbols and words on it create a lifelong connection between all of us that I’m honored to share with each of you.”
Adhering to the tradition of most changes of command, Bennett kept his remarks short.
“It’s a great honor to stand before you as the successor to a great lineage of commanders and to pave the way for the next generation of warrior professionals,” the incoming commander said. “My family and I are delighted to join this great team, and I look forward to providing the same first-class leadership to our aspiring ordnance professional Soldiers. I ask only one thing, and that is to do your best every day. I promise to do the same.”