[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                        April 11, 2008

Chesser becomes new 
Fort McCoy commander

      Col. David E. Chesser became Fort McCoy's new garrison commander during a change-of-command ceremony April 3 at the Fort McCoy Rumpel Fitness Center. Chesser succeeds outgoing commander Col. Derek J. Sentinella.

Photo: Col. David E. Chesser

      The official party for the event included Maj. Gen. James R. Sholar, Fort McCoy's Senior Mission Commander and host commander for the ceremony; Installation Management Command-West Region Director J. Randall Robinson; Sentinella; Chesser; and Garrison Command Sergeant Major Command Sgt. Maj. M. Kevin Dubois.

      Sgt. Maj. Mitzi Hinton of Headquarters Company, Fort McCoy U.S. Army Garrison was the ceremony narrator. She welcomed the audience and explained the traditions behind the passing of the organization's colors.

      Providing music for the ceremony were five members of the 132nd Army Band of the Wisconsin National Guard. The Wisconsin Military Academy provided the ceremonial cannon salutes. Garrison Deputy Commander Lt. Col. David L. Jessop served as the commander of the troops.

      In his remarks, Sholar said, "It is lost on no one that we're at a time of war in this country. And no one is more aware of that than our Army, joined at the hip with our sister services that partner with us at every step along the way and do what our great military services have always done, and that is to defend our way of life for 232 years, one more year than our nation has actually existed."

      Every time one of these personnel put their boots on the ground, the country owes them a great debt of gratitude, he said. The nation cannot return to the idyllic days of the past, but will be involved in a long war that is not of its choosing.

      Fort McCoy, which is 99-years-old this year, will remain in the forefront of training these troops. Sholar said units going through the installation for training routinely tell him how impressed they are with the training.

      While it takes a great team of Soldiers, civilians and their family members to accomplish the mission, someone has to provide the needed leadership, he said.

      From June 4, 2005-April 3, 2008, Sentinella was that person, he said, and Sentinella's family members provided him with support.

      "This stuff is not a one-man or a one-woman game," Sholar said. "We work as a team, and the Sentinellas have been a great team. Congratulations to you for a tremendous job that's been done here. Our prayers and support go with you."

      Sentinella will begin a tour of duty in Korea later this year.

      Chesser, like Sentinella, is another great example of a Citizen-Soldier, and will bring an established track record to the job, Sholar said. Chesser has taken an engineer battalion to war and returned.

      "I will tell you this guy is no rookie," Sholar said. "He's been in the fire. He's been toughened by the fire. He's been made of steel. He's been deployed. He took an engineer battalion to war and lived to talk about it and tell about it."

      "That experience, and what he's been doing most recently as the deputy commander for readiness at the 88th Regional Readiness Command at Fort Snelling (Minn.), has absolutely prepared him to step into the breech here and backfill Colonel Sentinella. He's going to do a terrific job."

      Chesser, like Sentinella, is a man with integrity, commitment, and patriotism and comes from a great military family. Sholar said Chesser has inherited a great team to which he will provide great leadership, and the team will perform magnificently as it always has.


      Robinson said it was a great day in the Army, Fort McCoy and the Installation Management Command. 

      "I am proud to stand before you all," he said. "I'm amazed by your incredible honor, your tremendous courage, and your just inspiring commitment to serve. America's greatest readiness treasure is each and every one of you. You are the tip of our spear. You protect us. You serve the cause of freedom and peace around the world."

Photo: Incoming Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David E. Chesser (center) accepts the guidon from J. Randall Robinson, IMCOM-West Region director. Also pictured are Garrison Command Sergeant Major Command Sgt. Maj. M. Kevin Dubois (left) and outgoing Garrison Commander Col. Derek J. Sentinella (right). (Photo by Allan Harding)
Incoming Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David E. Chesser (center) accepts the guidon from J. Randall Robinson, IMCOM-West Region director. Also pictured are Garrison Command Sergeant Major Command Sgt. Maj. M. Kevin Dubois (left) and outgoing Garrison Commander Col. Derek J. Sentinella (right). (Photo by Allan Harding)

      "The Army is Soldiers," Robinson said. "Soldiers are winning the peace in Iraq and in Afghanistan. You're the best-trained, best-led and best-equipped Soldiers our Army has ever known. I can assure you, as you continue your service, we will support and hold safe that which you cherish most above your nation, and that is your families and your loved ones."

      Strong families make for strong Soldiers, Robinson said.

      The Army Family Covenant exists to support Soldiers and their families.

      Sholar and Sentinella have signed it, and Chesser will be signing the covenant in the upcoming days to show the installation's continued support, he said.

      During the past few years, the Army, including Fort McCoy, has been upgrading its infrastructure and programs.

      That included barracks, dining facilities and providing new child care and family support programs, he said.

      Sentinella came to Fort McCoy with a vision to further transform the installation into a vibrant organization to prepare for future success. Under his guidance, the installation has met the demands placed upon it in the Global War on Terror, Robinson said.

      More than 291,000 military personnel trained at the installation and more than 30,000 Soldiers were mobilized and demobilized during Sentinella's tour. In addition to $47 million spent on military construction, another $34 million was spent to upgrade facilities and to do renovation work. The installation's two Forward Operating Bases nearly doubled in size.

      "Derek, as you depart Fort McCoy, you can look across with pride at the far-reaching effect you had on the installation for the Soldiers, for the family members, for the civilians and also for the entire Army," Robinson said. "What you have done is to truly exemplify Army Strong, and I want to thank you for all you've done."

      Sentinella's family also provided invaluable hospitality and friendship to support the Fort McCoy and local communities, he said.

      Chesser brings military and strategic experience to the job to lead the great Soldiers, families and the rest of the Fort McCoy work force, Robinson said.

      "Dave brings outstanding leadership capabilities to Fort McCoy," Robinson said. "His unique combination of military and strategic experience is ideally suited to provide outstanding support and to lead the great  men, women, and families of Fort McCoy and the Army."

      The change of command shows that Army institutions can adapt to change. Robinson said they evolve and grow with new leaders, new challenges and new visions.

      "And when the nation calls, as it most certainly will, Fort McCoy will be ready," he said.


      "You've all taken time out of your busy schedules to celebrate the closing of a chapter, and the opening of a new one in Fort McCoy's history," Sentinella said. "For almost three years, I've had the privilege to serve you as commander. The time has passed way too quickly."

Photo: Garrison Deputy Commander Lt. Col. David L. Jessop served as the commander of the troops. (Photo by Allan Harding) (The Real McCoy Online Extra)
Garrison Deputy Commander Lt. Col. David L. Jessop served as the commander of the troops. (Photo by Allan Harding) 
(The Real McCoy Online Extra)

      During his tenure, there were many changes, including the overdue upgrading of 58 World War II-era wood barracks. The facilities handled the needs of Soldiers in World War II, who were lucky if they had a radio. Today's Soldiers have many electronic items, such as telephones, laptop computers, iPODs, electric razors and toothbrushes, etc. The four to six electrical outlets in the old facilities can't meet the needs of today's Soldiers, he said.

      Things continue to move fast. Sentinella said the installation has received funding (last week) to support and train an additional 500 Soldiers at Regional Training Center-North, which is scheduled to begin training Army Reserve troops in May at Fort McCoy.

      The work ethic and commitment to the military by the installation's military and civilian work force has made Fort McCoy a great community partner, and a combat multiplier for all troops passing through the installation's gates, he said. Together, the installation has built a solid reputation for providing units with quality training supported by quality people.

      "I am one proud Soldier. I have worked with such a fine group of men and women," Sentinella said. "I will not soon forget you. Thank you."

      The audience responded with a standing ovation.


      Chesser said he looks forward to helping to lead the installation into its second hundred years of service.

      He comes from a family of veterans, with his father serving in the Army and his grandfather being a World War II Navy veteran. Chesser said he is the first member of his family to make the military a full time career.

Photo: Incoming Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David E. Chesser speaks at the April 3 change-of-command ceremony. (Photo by Allan Harding)
Incoming Fort McCoy Garrison Commander Col. David E. Chesser speaks at the April 3 change-of-command ceremony. (Photo by Allan Harding)

      He has two objectives for his tour at Fort McCoy -- to work to ensure the installation continues to be a premier training center and to continue to improve the installation's quality of life for its Soldiers and their families.

      "I will work tirelessly to ensure Fort McCoy is a premier training location for the forces that train here," he said. "The Army has a nonnegotiable contract with the American people to fight and win our nation's wars. This will be accomplished by the support of the installation tenants and the (military training) exercises it has. The installation must continually ensure Soldiers are ready to train and deploy."

      "I will focus on improving the quality of life at Fort McCoy for those stationed here as well as the transient troops that train here," he said. "Our center of gravity is our people. The well-being of our Soldiers, Army civilians and family members is inextricably linked to the overall readiness of the force."

      "In essence, the strength of our work force comes from the strength of our families," he said. "If we're going to retain quality Soldiers, to include civilians in the work force, we must provide installations that enable Soldiers and family readiness and provide a quality of life that matches the quality of service they provide to our nation."

      As commander, Chesser said he will wholeheartedly support the Army Family Covenant. He also will support the Army Community Covenant, which will be announced later this month, to continue, maintain and develop partnerships at the local and state levels to further improve the quality of life in the work force.

      "I'm looking forward to serve as your next garrison commander," Chesser said. "It will be a distinct honor and privilege for me to lead this great installation as we, together, confront the many challenges that lay ahead."

      "Fort McCoy enjoys an outstanding record of excellence throughout the Army in helping accomplish the missions associated with preparing Soldiers for success on the battlefield and for taking care of families," he said.

      "I pledge that Fort McCoy will, as it has now for nearly 100 years, be a good neighbor to the surrounding communities -- communities that have steadfastly supported Fort McCoy throughout the years," Chesser said. " I look forward to working together with community leaders on issues that will be beneficial."


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