DEVENS — Command of U.S. Army Garrison Fort Devens changed hands Tuesday morning as Lt. Col. Steven Nott passed garrison colors to incoming commander Lt. Col. Warren F. Bacote on the newly built parade grounds inside the federal compound.
Special guests included Maj. Gen. William Monk III, commander of the 99th Regional Support Command in Fort Dix, N.J.; Ted Sarandis and Joseph Lopes, Army ambassadors to Massachusetts; John De Groseillers, Vermont Army ambassador; Frank Doherty, ambassador emeritus; Brig. Gen. Oscar Depriest, commander of the 804th Medical Battalion at Fort Devens; and Rep. Harold Naughton, who serves on the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs.
Army ambassadors have the honorary rank of major general.
Nott’s wife, Charlotte, was given red roses, and gifts were presented to the Nott children; Christian, Bethany, Elissa and Ethan. Bacote’s wife, Andrena, was given yellow roses of welcome.
After the singing of the national anthem by Holly Haase and invocation by Marine veteran Raymond Hurley, chaplain of Pepperell VFW Post 3291, Fort Devens colors were passed in military tradition from incoming Command Sgt. Major Frank MacRae to Nott, to Fort Dix Commander Col. Patrick Slowey to Bacote and back to MacRae. Command sergeant majors are the keepers of the colors.
Slowey said for Nott it was mission first, soldiers and families always, and he lauded him for tenacious approach to problem solving, overseeing the training of 195,000 service members of all branches, creating state-of-the-art military day rooms and revitalizing community involvement.
“You have some big shoes to fill,” he told Bacote.
Nott said it has been an honor for him and a ride that was thrilling.
“Fort Devens isn’t the facilities or the land, it’s the people,” he said. “In every inspection we came in strongly (with observations) of ‘My God, how can you do this with so few?’ I said they’re stubborn New Englanders. Tell them they can’t and they will.”
“The quality of life has moved forward dramatically. We’ll soon have a Public Affairs Office on Devens and a ministry in the newly renovated chapel,” he said. “All was accomplished with a minuscule staff with huge heart. You have been blessed with great people and soldiers.”
Nott repeated what he has often said: “What goes on outside the fence is at least as important as what goes on inside. I challenge you to continue to put meat on the bones of the Community Covenant.
“I cherish the people here. The citizens of the United States only allowed me to borrow you for a while,” he said. “Farewell and Godspeed.”
Nott has been assigned to the U. S. Army War College.
“No one gets here alone,” Bacote said. “In 20 years I have been fortunate to have had outstanding leaders, soldiers and world-class civilians. It is as much yours as mine because taking command is an honor and a privilege.
“I understand what my duties are,” he said, “and I will strive to do them justice.”
Like Nott, Bacote is a combat veteran with infantry command experience. He is trained as a military policeman. His awards include the Bronze Star, multiple awards of the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal and several others, including the Parachutist Badge.
Military change of command ceremonies date to the Roman Empire, intended, like inaugurations, coronations and gatherings of Scottish clans, to have an assembled company witness a turnover of total responsibility, accountability and authority of command from one individual to another.