WINCHESTER, Va. – Command of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Middle East District officially passed from Col. Pat Kinsman to Col. Stephen Bales during a change of command ceremony Aug. 23 at the district’s Winchester headquarters.
The rich traditions of the military change of command ceremony date back as far as the Army itself. The passing of the colors, a key component of the ceremony, signifies the passing of responsibility from the outgoing commander to the incoming commander.
Transatlantic Division Commander Brig. Gen. David Hill presided as reviewing officer. The District’s Sgt. Maj. Georgette Morton retrieved the colors and passed them to Kinsman who, after a moment of reflection, passed them on to Hill. Incoming commander Bales accepted the colors from Hill and with it the responsibilities as Middle East District Commander. Bales passed the colors to the District’s senior civilian employee, Tom Waters, signifying the cohesive work force of military working with civilians toward the District’s goals.
During remarks following the flag passing, Hill praised Kinsman for his time in command of the District. “You took a time of great uncertainty for the District and the people working for you and gave them certainty…You came at a time of organizational change and with no agenda other than to keep things moving in the right direction.
Hill continued describing Kinsman’s goals. “One of your goals when you assumed command was to build trust with your team and your customers. From everything I’ve seen in my brief time here, you’ve done that. We’ve dramatically improved our reputation and relationship with the Army and Navy under your watch and our foreign military sales customers are extremely happy with your efforts to continue increasing our presence in the field. And internally, you empowered your staff. You trusted them and they trust you.
"You wanted to continue TAM’s transformation efforts…some of those changes were in the works before you came on board. The District needed to change and was moving in that direction when you came on board. But it’s one thing to know you need to change and another to actually do it. People fear change, so I give you credit for alleviating that fear. You communicated that it was the right thing to do and “ripped the Band-Aid off,” to make it happen,” Hill said.
It may have taken longer than expected to determine Kinsman’s replacement, but Colonel Stephen Bales is a good call, Hill said. “You can rest easy knowing the Army has picked the right person to step in and continue the fight.
“As a deputy commander and commander, he’s got experience in three different Districts, and extensive overseas experience, most recently as the Commander of the Far East District, another extremely challenging construction environment,” Hill continued. “He’s also been the Deputy for the Transatlantic Division South District in Afghanistan so he’s familiar with some of the manning and recruitment challenges the District faces.”
Hill closed by addressing the Middle East District work force. “Your incoming commander will provide you exactly the kind of leadership you deserve as you continue your mission.”
When Kinsman took the lectern, he jumped right in with a message to Team TAM. “I trust you even more, I believe in you now more than ever and finally it’s been an incredible honor and experience for me to work alongside you over the last eight and a half months.
“My approach has been to increase transparency, to focus on empowerment and to build the accompanying required trust that great organizations are built upon,” Kinsman said. “I did my best to disrupt and lead very positive change across this extremely dynamic organization.
“This district has great momentum. It is making very important strides in delivering its program. It’s been awesome to be a part of it and see our District thrive with trust and empowerment,” he continued. “But I challenged our employees in our last commander’s call to sustain the momentum and told them that the momentum depends on them. And it depends on our ability to continue to change. Doing what we’ve always done doesn’t cut it. It’s a choice we make every day for the future.
“And that’s where Colonel Stephen Bales comes in.” Kinsman continued. “He is absolutely the right one to lead this program. We’ve had some great discussions over the last couple weeks about the past but more about the future. And he’ll take this organization to even greater heights.”
Following thank-yous for the ceremony planners, Bales talked about appreciating the small but friendly town of Winchester, and the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley. He continued with, “regardless of my job, my priorities always have been and will remain my faith, my family and my job. I promise the members of the TAM team that you will receive 100 percent of my effort while I am at work and I will always support and enable you to succeed.
“I consider it a privilege and an honor to serve our nation in the Army and I am absolutely honored to be assuming command of the Middle East District. I look forward to serving along-side the superb professionals of the team as your commander carrying my part of the load to ensure we deliver our programs and delivery quality for our customers and partners. I have full faith, confidence and trust in the proud, dedicated professional members of the Middle East District team.”
Kinsman commanded the Middle East District since December 2016. He will return to his Chief of Staff of the Transatlantic Division position for a few months before assuming command of the Norfolk District.
Bales most recently commanded the Far East District since July 2015. He has also served as Commander of the Buffalo District, Deputy Commander of the Louisville District and Deputy Commander of the Transatlantic Division South District in Afghanistan.