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Col. Thomas J. Edwards Jr. said the relentless pace of his predecessor, Col. Bruce D. Jenkins, has set the bar so high he will have to work tirelessly to match the output.
“Bruce just gave me the Blackberry,” he said. “It’s a little worn out. I guess that’s a good omen.”
Edwards took over Thursday as garrison commander of Fort Knox during a change of command ceremony at Waybur Theater, replacing Jenkins, whose next assignment will take him to the Pentagon as a director of military personnel management with the U.S. Army G1.
Edwards, a Darlington, S.C. native who returns to the U.S. after an assignment in Kuwait, said following Jenkins is an honor because he knows Garrison Command is in order, but it also is challenging because he has accomplished so much.
“I think Bruce Jenkins makes caffeine nervous,” he said.
Edwards, who joked that the heat in Kuwait felt like stepping out of a blow dryer, said Kentucky appeared to be in the midst of a monsoon season when he arrived because of the steady doses of rain. His family has lived locally during the past year and already have fallen in love with the state, he said.
Edwards said there is some uncertainty surrounding Fort Knox because the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, will be deactivated, but he believes the post will continue to remain relevant and vital to the Army’s plans because of its history. He will do his part, he said, to build on the legacy.
“It’s the gold standard, he said.
Jenkins, who plans to vacation for a few weeks in Hawaii with his wife, said Edwards has a sterling resume and a background that will make him perfectly suited to lead Garrison Command.
“He’s absolutely the right guy for the job,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins has become synonymous with Army relations during his two years at the helm, working with outside communities and mayors to forge tighter bonds, assisting with an effort to turn over federal property for the expansion of Saunders Springs Nature Preserve in Radcliff, where new hiking and biking trails have been constructed.
He championed the “All Star” security system at post gates, which drastically has reduced waiting times for visitors who want to tour the post or access its amenities. He also supported the development of the Knox Info Net system as a marketing tool for on-post activities and was in charge during overhauls of Sadowski Center and the Fort Knox Leaders Club, which was renamed the Saber & Quill.
Furthermore, the post has revamped its visitor’s center at Chaffee Gate to a welcome center, devised a new Fort Knox logo and made advances in energy use through methane gas extraction, geothermal ponds and energy islands.
While Jenkins was engaged in these endeavors, he said he played a minor role, deferring to his staff, whom he described as “superstars” with superlative levels of talent.
For Jenkins, his work on post never felt like a job as he simply wanted to improve the environment where so many work and play.
“Every day at Fort Knox was really special for me,” he said.
An avid runner, Jenkins said he plans to sneak in some runs during his time in Hawaii, where his wife works as a program analyst for the Navy, but intends to allow time for relaxation and some projects around the house.
Maj. Gen. Jefforey Smith, commander of Cadet Command and Fort Knox, said Jenkins has earned some peace and quiet after his hard work. He said he hopes Jenkins tosses the phones and mobile devices and takes time to recharge with his family.
Smith also recommended the Army name the Knox Trail System on post after Jenkins, which Jenkins said was an “overwhelming” honor.
Smith said Jenkins and Command Sgt. Maj. Steven M. Voller held nothing back as they worked in tandem to improve the installation.
“They (viewed) this post, this community, like they were their most closest family members and loved ones,” he said.
The new team of Edwards and Command Sgt. Maj. Marcus O. Robinson have a solid foundation to build on and will take Garrison Command to a new level, Smith added.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org