Unified Support: Transatlantic Division Activates in Winchester

Middle East District
Published Nov. 30, 2009

TRANSATLANTIC DIVISION, Winchester, Va. --Winchester is now home to two distinct Corps of Engineers organizations.

The newest Corps division formally stood up during an activation and assumption of command ceremony, Sept. 29. Brig. Gen. Kendall P. Cox, former Southwestern Division Commander and Division Engineer, assumed command.

TAD’s mission is to provide design and construction services and related engineering services on behalf of the Corps of Engineers to establish conditions for regional security, stability, and prosperity.

Before the new division was established, there were three major Corps organizations operating within that theater – the Gulf Region Division in Baghdad, the Afghanistan Engineer District in Kabul and the Transatlantic Programs Center in Winchester.

With the activation of the new division, those functions will now be accomplished by TAD’s five districts: In Iraq, the Gulf Region District in Baghdad and the Gulf Region South District in Tallil; the Afghanistan Engineer District-North in Kabul, the newly formed Afghanistan Engineer District-South in Kandahar, and the Middle East District.

The activation ceremony was held at the historic Old Court House in Winchester. Built in 1840, it replaced the original wood structure built on that site in 1741 but later destroyed by fire. The original court house was the first one west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

During the War Between the States, the Old Court House was used as a hospital, barracks and a prison by both the North and South. In 2003, following extensive renovation, the Old Court House Civil War Museum opened and today houses a nationally recognized collection of Civil War artifacts.

Cox personally selected the ceremony site during a visit to the area last spring because he felt it symbolized efforts to protect freedom. Arriving guests were greeted by the president of the Old Court House Civil War Museum and her husband, the treasurer, Trish and Harry Ridgeway. His dress included a vest and knee-length dark frock coat; she wore a rich maroon and black, floor-length afternoon dress with full hoop skirt.

“I want to say thank you to the Ridgeways for welcoming us into their house,” said Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commanding General and Chief of Engineers, during his opening remarks. “If these walls and floors could talk … I understand this court house was used during the Civil War and surgery was performed on Soldiers from both sides as Winchester was occupied by both the North and the South, and switched hands more than 70 times during that war. Well, Mr. and Mrs. Ridgeway, I am pleased to report that now you are occupied by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

After the laughter subsided, Van Antwerp continued.

“Our family does a lot of jigsaw puzzles and I often ask people what they think is the most important part of a jigsaw puzzle,” Van Antwerp said. “I mostly get answers like the border or the corners.

“I don’t think it’s either of those,” he said. “It’s actually the box top. Can you imagine trying to put together a puzzle without knowing what it’s supposed to look like?”

He went on to explain that just days after Cox assumed command of the new division, he would leave the majority of the division staff in Winchester and take his place forward-deployed in Iraq.

According to Van Antwerp, Cox was hand-picked by the U.S. Commander in Iraq General Raymond T. Odierno to serve as the engineer on the Multi-National Force – Iraq staff. His position is dual-hatted and includes his role as Transatlantic Division Commander in charge of all support the Corps of Engineers provides through its offices in the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as stateside from Winchester.

“This is a dream fulfilled today,” said Van Antwerp. “The Corps has been working on lining up one division with each combatant commander. Until now, there has been no division command associated with CENTCOM. The Transatlantic Division will fill that bill. “Ken [Cox] will have the opportunity to actually design the box top for the Corps of Engineers in this region,” said the Chief with a smile. “These are exciting times.”

The traditional flag-passing portion of the ceremony included the Corps of Engineers’ Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Buxbaum as flag bearer, who passed the TAD flag to the Chief, who in turn passed the flag and ceremoniously command of the Transatlantic Division to Cox. Other traditions upheld were an invocation provided by Chaplain Col. Hanson Boney; an honor guard from the U.S. Army Military District of Washington posting and retiring the colors; the singing of both the Engineer and Army songs and a presentation of yellow rose buds to Cox’s wife Anna Marie.

After accepting the flag and assuming command, Cox said he was honored and humbled, personally thanking the honor guard, the Chief, Buxbaum and those in the audience.

“It is an exciting and challenging, and ultimately rewarding time for the Corps of Engineers,” said Cox. “I’m thankful for this opportunity to command the Transatlantic Division.

“TAD’s area of operations is the second largest battle space and the United States’ number-one priority,” Cox said.

U.S. military forces in Iraq will continue to be drawn down during the coming years with an overall goal of having the number of troops down to 50,000 by next August, he said. The decline in numbers will continue until 2011, when no more U.S. troops are expected to be in country. “And as troops depart, the pressure is on for the engineers to efficiently and safely finish what’s been started,” Cox said. TAD is currently staffed with about 30 people and is expected to double within the next few months, the majority to remain based in Winchester. The division is expected to annually manage a $4 billion program of military construction and interagency and international support missions.

“So this hopefully will be the beginning of a long, determined effort,” Cox said. “Our children’s children will think of this as the start of success in the Middle East.”