Change of Command, and a Bit of History in Making, at Fort Myer


(Monday, July 23, 2007 5:48 PM EDT)

With U.S. Army Col. Thomas Allmon's three-year tenure as commander of Fort Myer Military Community at a close, the incoming commander is eager to take the helm.

“I'm ready,” Col. Laura Richardson said in a recent interview. “I'm excited to get going.”

Richardson will become the first female commander in the history of Fort Myer Military Community, which includes both Fort Myer in Arlington and Fort McNair in the District of Columbia.

In an interview, Richardson played down the significance of breaking the gender barrier as commander of a post that once was led by George S. Patton.

“There are many women before me who have done bigger and better things,” she said. “I'm just happy to be at Fort Myer.”

Richardson has been preparing for her assignment since late summer last year, taking prep classes and completing a year of study at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

Richardson has lived in the Washington metro area for the last three years, serving as deputy director, then director, of the Army's Transformation Office from 2004 to 2006.

Prior to that, she served as commander of the 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, flying Black Hawk helicopters. She was deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Richardson and her husband, Col. Jim Richardson, became the first husband-and-wife team to command battalions in the same brigade force. They have a daughter, who will be a college freshman in the fall.

Richardson follows in the footsteps of a commander whose goal was to reach out to the community. One of Allmon's main aims during his three-year term was to build a good relationship with the people living and working on Fort Myer and those in the surrounding area.

“My biggest focus was on people and the community,” Allmon said in a recent interview. “I believe in management by walking around. If you don't get out and see what people are doing, you're doing a disservice to the community and yourself.”

Allmon interacted with community organizations and the county government, and was the post's liaison to the Arlington County Chamber of Commerce's board of directors.

Richardson has goals similar to Allmon's.

“I'd like to focus on providing an installation that gives great customer service and that gives the best service out of all the installations,” Richardson said.

She said she hopes that bringing a new perspective to Fort Myer will be beneficial to the installation.

“I think invariably when you bring in a new commander, you get a fresh set of eyes . . . you get the opportunity for someone to come in with different ideas,” Richardson said.

And different ideas might be an asset in coping with the ever-evolving installation.

Allmon had to deal with significant changes during his years on the installation, including numerous changes in personnel and construction of a new motor pool, kennel facility, access control gates and barracks, among other projects.

Allmon, said he looks at his time at Fort Myer fondly.

“I will definitely miss [being commander],” Allmon said. “People come up to me and say, ‘you must be glad to be done with the installation management business,' but it's not a business. It's a community. It's all about taking care of people.”

For many past commanders at Fort Myer, the posting was the last stop prior to retirement. Not for Allmon, whose career in the Army began with his 1979 graduation from the United States Military Academy.

After the change of command is complete on July 24, he will head to Fort Benning in Georgia for training, and will then go to Kuwait and, ultimately, to Baghdad to train Iraqi soldiers.

“When the position opened up, I was at the twilight of my career,” he said. “But I thought, if I can make a difference there, that's what I'm going to do.”

Although Allmon will miss being at Fort Myer, he said he is confident that Richardson will do well in the position.

“She's had experience in the Beltway and she knows a lot of players in the community,” he said. “We've had some great sessions together preparing for the change of command. She's going to do great. The Army doesn't pick people who are going to fail.”

Col. Thomas Allmon, left, will be succeeded by Col. Laura Richardson as commander of Fort Myer Military Community.
(U.S. Army photos)

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