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The issue: Garrison Commander departs
Our view: Leaving better than he found it
A soldier and his family departed Thursday from Fort Knox. In itself, that is not a unique or uncommon event.
The fact that the soldier is a career Armor officer does not seem all that unusual either. Armor soldiers and families have been departing Fort Knox for the past 70 years.
But make no mistake: Thursday’s departure was both unique and unusual. Col. Eric “Rick” Schwartz, garrison commander since 2008, and his family left for a new assignment. Schwartz, perhaps the last Armor officer to command at Fort Knox, handed the reins to his successor, saddled up and rode away.
The son of a U.S. Army helicopter pilot, Schwartz first arrived at Fort Knox in the summer of 1984 as a second lieutenant of Armor from Lynchburg College in Virginia. Twenty-four years later, he returned as garrison commander responsible for providing force protection, health services, schools, child care, recreation and public utilities for more than 30,000 soldiers, civilians and family members.
No stranger to tough jobs, Schwartz is a decorated veteran who led combat troops during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He led the now famous Thunder Run into Baghdad in April 2003 and again later into some of the toughest fighting at Fallujah.
His tenure as garrison commander always will be remembered by the superb way he executed Base Realignment and Closure. He arrived in 2008, literally in the middle of BRAC. Three years earlier, the BRAC decisions regarding Fort Knox were announced and by this September, BRAC activities at Fort Knox must be complete.
When he arrived, most of the decisions had been made and planning was under way. However, the hard part was just beginning; that of refining the plan, adding common sense where needed, then leading all of Fort Knox in executing the plan.
He may have had the most difficult tenure as Fort Knox garrison commander in generations. And if you live at Fort Knox, you know the roads are better, housing is more plentiful and newer, the installation is more energy efficient and family programs have increased.
Schwartz connected with the community like few commanders before him. He worked with surrounding communities to improve off-post opportunities for Fort Knox families, and in so doing, also improved the lives of the entire community.
We wish Col. Schwartz and his family a safe trip to Pennsylvania and a very rewarding assignment as a professor at the U.S. Army War College, where he will train the next generation of senior commanders. We are sure those he teaches and prepares for leadership roles will be greatly rewarded.
We believe Schwartz leaves Fort Knox, and our entire community, better than he found it.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.