October 16, 1997
FORT RITCHIE - Some 165 persons gathered inside Raven Rock Mountain near here Wednesday, October 1, to witness a ceremony transferring the support responsibility for the Alternate Joint Communications Center (AJCC), Site R, to Fort Detrick.
The ceremony was the result of more than 18 months work to make a "seamless transition" from Fort Ritchie, which has supported the top security facility for more than four decades, to Fort Detrick, according to Mike Mulligan, facility director.
"After 44 years," Mulligan said, "Fort Ritchie passes the torch to Fort Detrick for stewardship into the next millennium."
Col. Albert E. Kinkead, commander of U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Detrick, said, "It is important that you understand that nothing will change.
"The excellent support you received from Fort Ritchie will continue," Kinkead added, "just with new faces. It will be the same quality of service ... My commitment is that you will have the support needed to complete your mission."
Kinkead represented Brig. Gen. Russ Zajtchuk, commander, Headquarters U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command and Fort Detrick.
The "seamless transition" began shortly after the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission designated that Fort Ritchie be added to the base closure list. The former Army Signal Command installation is now aligned with the Military District of Washington and is scheduled to close its gates by October 1998.
Fort Detrick, a U.S. Army Medical Command installation, is located some 30 miles south of Fort Ritchie.
Officials pointed out that thecounterparts from the two installations have been meeting at least monthly to determine how to handle the transfer, identify the actions required, target dates for completion and dates to actually begin the transition.
Support functions included medical, fire and rescue, supplies, utilities, mail, water and sewer, transportation, resource management and other key support requirements.
The Transition ceremony marked the first major hurdle in the transfer of function for several units from Fort Ritchie to Fort Detrick, which will be their new home base (see related story).
Among the units transferring are the 1108th U.S. Army Signal Brigade, the 1111th U.S. Army Signal Battalion, the U.S. Army Information Systems Engineering Command - Continental United States, the Technology Applications Office and the Military Police Company.
In all, some 1150 military and civilian personnel will transfer by the end of September 1998.
Among the attendees at the transition ceremony were representatives of both installations who helped work out the details. They attended by invitation only.
Mulligan, who gave the opening remarks, said, "This occasion belongs to you. This is the culmination of hard work from both installations."
Official transfer of responsibility occurred with the reading of the General Orders, signed by Togo D. West, Jr., secretary of the Army.
Lt. Col. Francis D. Clepper, Jr., installation commander, Fort Ritchie, was handed the key to Site R by Army Master Sgt. Raymond P. O'Brien of the National Military Command Center (NMCC).
Clepper then passed the key to Col. James R. Wigger, Jr., deputy commander of U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Detrick, who became the new commandant of Site R.
"Give yourselves a hand," Wigger told the crowd. "I have worked with each of you and commend you for your excellence, professionalism and mission accomplishment."
"Clepper said, "This facility has a tremendous call as a secure facility which the national military leaders can fall back on to continue daily activities without threat ... Those of you in attendance made this happen. Both Fort Ritchie and Fort Detrick staffs reached out, understanding the complexities, and rolled over the problems.
"I am confident that the same level of support you receive now will continue into the future," Clepper concluded.
Among the speakers was Cmdr. Barbara Valenti of the NMCC, Site R.
"I didn't wear white because the (U.S. Army) Medical Command has taken over; I'm in the Navy," she grinned.
"We will miss the support from Fort Ritchie, but look forward to a wonderful relationship with Fort Detrick," she continued.
"As one of the major tenants of Raven Rock Mountain, the NMCC played a crucial role in outlining the necessary transition requirements. "
Fort Ritchie Chaplain William A. Robertson concluded the ceremony with a prayer, proclaiming, "Let the nation remain free!"
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Last updated: 10.16.97