State flags provided a patriotic backdrop in Conmy Hall July 17, as Col. Fern O. Sumpter became the new commander of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. Sumpter assumed command from Col. Carl R. Coffman, who commanded JBM-HH for the past 33 months.
Hosted by Brig. Gen. John Uberti, deputy commanding general for support,U.S. Army Installation Management Command, the audience included military leadership throughout the National Capital Region, servicemembers, federal civilian employees, Arlington County and District of Columbia leadership, Family members and guests.
The heart of the ceremony was the traditional passing of the colors, symbolizing the transfer of command authority and responsibility from the outgoing to the incoming commander. JBM-HH Command Sgt. Maj. Necati Akpinar passed the flag to Coffman, which signifies the key role of the noncommissioned officer corps as the guardian and protector of the colors and the men and women who sacrifice life to preserve her glory.
Coffman then passed the colors to Uberti, signifying the relinquishing of command and gratitude for support, guidance and the opportunity to serve. Uberti then passed the flag to Sumpter, representing the trust and confidence in the new commander’s leadership and commitment to care for the organization.
Sumpter passed the flag to Akpinar, representing her first act of allegiance and confidence that the noncommissioned officers corps will continue to “dress the colors.”
“One of the tools in my kit bag I regularly refer to and have utilized since my company command days, which now seems so long ago, was given to me by a dear friend,” said Sumpter. “It was written by the late General Bruce C. Clark, former commander in chief of U.S. Army Europe from 1960 to 1962 entitled ‘So you want a Command.’” The article, in the form of a questionnaire, was published in the April, 1957 issue of Infantry Magazine.
“It basically asked the reader if he is willing to sacrifice everything from privacy, to time with Family, in order to properly take care of the unit and its mission,” Sumpter explained. “The Army has come a long way since 1957, but the truisms in Clark’s questionnaire are still valid. That said, I fully accept the responsibility and authority of commanding this great organization with eyes wide open and a heart committed to serving with the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall staffs, partners and service providers who work so diligently every day, providing support services to the thousands of military members and their Families, retirees and civilians stationed throughout the National Capital Region.”
“The role of garrison commander is one of our most complex assignments, at every level and by every service,” said Uberti. He credited Coffman for his efforts as joint base commander. “You have transformed this command,” he said.
Sumpter said “Following a wonderful command team won’t be easy.”
Coffman called JBM-HH “the best job in the Army.” He pointed out the partnership between the military and Arlington County government, and the community at large, for the joint partnership. “It’s great to be surrounded by people who care,” Coffman said.
Following the presentation of the colors by the Joint Color Guard, which consisted of servicemembers from the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and the U.S. Marine Corps, the national anthem was sung by Master Sgt. Antonio Giuliano of The U.S. Army Chorus, while the invocation was delivered by Chap. (Lt. Col.) Clyde E. Scott. Additional music was provided by The U.S. Army Brass Quintet.
After graduating from the University of Massachusetts in 1989, Sumpter, a Boston native and life-long Red Sox fan, was commissioned as an Army officer. She has served in Germany, South Korea, Afghanistan and the Netherlands.
Sumpter, who began her Army career as an enlisted Soldier in the Army Reserve, has climbed the ranks to colonel, and is the second female of 102 officers to command Fort Myer and the third officer to command the joint base. Sumpter succeeds Coffman, who assumed the position from Col. Laura Richardson in October, 2009. Coffman’s next assignment will be U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.