Col. Thomas W. Williams relinquished Fort Belvoir's Command Flag to Col. Brian W. Lauritzen three years to the day after he accepted that flag from his predecessor. In addition to the two military officers, it also marked a change for the ties that have developed between the military and civilian communities in southeastern Fairfax County.
"The Change of Command is a time-honored tradition. It is a transfer of total responsibility," said Donald N. Carr, director of public affairs, at the start of Monday's ceremony.
Serving as host for the event was Diane Devens, director, Northeast Region, Installation Management Agency — the federal government arm that oversees all U.S. Army installations throughout this region and the organization of which Col. Williams will now become an integral part.
"Fort Belvoir is one of the largest and most complex installations in the Army. This is one of my most important posts and it takes a seasoned colonel to manage it," Devens told the large crowd assembled on the lawn of Fort Belvoir's Headquarters Building.
"Col. Williams has worked very diligently with the local community. After 9/11 this was no small feat," she said.
"He not only worked with many problems resulting from 9/11 but also simultaneously initiated the Residential Community Initiative program to bring better housing to his soldiers. Support of installations is the mission of IMA and Fort Belvoir is our flagship in this area," Devens said.
When Williams came to the microphone for his farewell message, he started in vintage Williams-style. "What a tremendous ride," he said.
"When I took over command of this post I said 'Let's get it on.' I don't believe we have stopped since that day. Now this flagship installation is making the most important transfer in its history," he said.
He also thanked all of those who had served with him during his tenure, particularly noting his Command Sgt. Major Andre Douglas. "All the soldiers on this post have made this happen," he said.
Williams paid specific recognition of his three sisters seated in the audience. "I'm the last of eight children and they did indeed prepare me for combat and military service," he said.
FOLLOWING WILLIAMS to the podium was Belvoir's incoming Garrison Commander Col. Lauritzen. He acknowledged, "I am blessed again today with this command. During the next few years Belvoir will grow in population and facilities."
As with Williams, Lauritzen is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a bachelor of science in engineering. His first trip to Fort Belvoir was as a candidate for admission to West Point.
Lauritzen's military education includes the Field Artillery Officer's Basic and Advanced Courses, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, the Command and General Staff College, and the U.S. Army War College. His civilian education includes a master of science in mathematics and operations research from the Colorado School of Mines.
Prior to assuming command of Fort Belvoir, he served as the executive officer to the Army's Military Deputy for Budget in the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army. In addition to friends and dignitaries, he was joined at the ceremony by his wife Anne and their two children Daniel, 9, and Kristen, 6.
As noted by Carr in his opening remarks, the land now occupied by Fort Belvoir was originally owned by Thomas, Sixth Lord of Fairfax, by deed of gift from the King of England. Lord Fairfax persuaded his nephew, Colonel William Fairfax, to manage his interests in Virginia in 1734.
Colonel Fairfax built his home, which he named Belvoir, on approximately 2,000 acres of land overlooking the Potomac River. Belvoir, meaning "Beautiful to see," was the social and cultural center of the time, according to historical records.
As a representative to the colonial government in Williamsburg, Colonel Fairfax successfully petitioned to have the land around Belvoir declared its own county, Carr related to the assemblage. Belvoir remained in private hands until 1910 when it was purchased by the District of Columbia. Today it is part of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.