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Fort Monroe garrison commander plans a departure with dignity
By David Macaulay, firstname.lastname@example.org | 247-7838
HAMPTON ó When Hampton University graduate Col. Anthony Reyes returned to the city it was to take over its famous landmark Fort Monroe.
Sangjib Min/Daily Press Robert E. Edwards, left, deputy to the garrison commander, and Col. Anthony D. Reyes, Fort Monroe garrison commander, look at a chart as they talk about the last 12 months of the Army at Fort Monroe in Hampton on Wednesday. (Sangjib Min, Daily Press / September 14, 2010
But there was a downside. The base was scheduled to close.
"It was real mixed emotions because we came over here during my days in ROTC," he said. "But for 26 years to be able to come back and find yourself in command was amazing," he said.
Reyes took over at Fort Monroe on May 14, 2008. Next year, on Sept. 15, 2011, he intends to be one of the last people in uniform on the post when the Army completes its move out.
Reyes, 48, was a former garrison commander at Fort Monmouth, N.J., from 2002 to 2004. When he took over at Monroe the decision had already been made to close the historic post.
In the space of 12 months the garrison commander will oversee the departure of 2,627 civilians and 1,796 military personnel.
The most significant moving activity will take place from next April until September.
"It will be very busy in the summer of 2011," Reyes said. He has drawn up a "very detailed plan" in which every element has an allocated time to move.
The planning process for the Army's departure began with the BRAC closure announcement in 2005.
Reyes said he has aimed to provide the best support he can to the tenant organizations while transferring the organization to civilian control.
"I call that transferring with dignity," he said. It means personnel at Fort Monroe will continue to concentrate on their operational missions until they move out.
The largest tenant at the base, the Training and Doctrine Command, is moving to Fort Eustis, taking about 75 percent of post's personnel with it. Because the command will stay in the area, that will help Monroe because some military families will continue to live at Monroe, he said.
"We want to make it a seamless transition. We want to be able to provide all of the services that are required here until they actually transfer," he said.
But the Army's involvement in Fort Monroe won't end completely on Sept. 15 next year when ownership transfers to the commonwealth.
Reyes said the Army is "ahead of the game" on the environmental clean-up of the site. Additional investigations of the moat, the site of the Dog Beach landfill and the Navy area, will continue over the next year.
Robin Mills, the Army's director of public works, said the clean-up activities on these three sites may continue beyond Sept. 15, 2011.
The clean-up has not cost as much as originally feared. After initial estimates of $500 million, Reyes said, projected costs are now about $70 million.
The colonel has also been working to take care of the garrison workforce that runs Fort Monroe. Of more than 240 permanent personnel, only 66 are still to be placed in new jobs, Reyes said.
"The team has really done a great job working with the civilian personnel authorities, trying to find future employment for our personnel," Reyes said.
Although Fort Monroe has a special place in Army history, Reyes said it's not the role of soldiers to look back.
"Ours is not to debate but to stay mission centered and focused," he said.