Meade leader retiring Pentagon denies he sought extension

May 21, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

ARLINGTON — A headline in yesterday's Anne Arundel section of The Sun incorrectly stated the circumstances behind Fort Meade garrison commander Kent D. Menser's impending retirement from the Army. Colonel Menser, who was ordered to retire as of June 30, had asked to remain at his post for another year. His request was turned down.

The Sun regrets the error.

ARLINGTON -- On the same day the Fort Meade garrison commander received an award at the Pentagon recognizing his work to upgrade the base, Col. Kent D. Menser announced he is being forced to retire at the end of next month.

The colonel had been asked to retire several months ago as part of military reduction, but he requested a one-year extension to finish the many projects he had started at the historic Odenton post.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

But yesterday, while standing in the Pentagon's Center Court, Colonel Menser said officials in that building had denied his request earlier in the week.

"I had said I would be available for one more year to finish up some activities," the colonel said. "I heard on Monday that no exceptions will be made in terms of extensions or recalls.

"I am disappointed personally, in that I couldn't be here to work with officials in the county and the state," he said. "But professionally I'm not disappointed. What better way to end my career then as an installation commander?"

The new base commander will be Col. Robert G. Morris III, senior Army adviser for the New Jersey National Guard, who will take over at a Fort Meade ceremony June 30.

Colonel Menser, 49, said yesterday's award, citing Fort Meade as the Army's most improved installation in the continental United States, proves that his 100-year vision for Fort Meade as a college campus and center for research is being recognized.

"Army officials were very impressed with what we are doing, especially with Odenton and the kind of relationship we have with local communities," Colonel Menser said. "This proves we are moving in the right direction."

Fort Meade beat out Kentucky's Fort Knox for the $125,000 prize. The base plans to spend the money on programs to improve morale among unmarried soldiers, on playgrounds for children and on other recreational programs.

Sgt. Maj. James F. Slusser, who is responsible for all soldiers on base, and Lynn Sasser, a representative from the 28,000 civilians who work at the post, accepted the award in front of several hundred military officials and civilians.

Two other Maryland bases won honorable mentions -- Fort Detrick near Frederick and Fort Ritchie in Washington County.

"We face big challenges," said Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, the Army chief of staff. "You have overcome these challenges. You have made life better for your people."

Janet Menig, the acting director of management for the chief of staff, who works on the Army's Community of Excellence program and wrote a manual titled, "Installation: A strategy for the 21st Century," said Colonel Menser's work at Fort Meade serves as a national model.

His Meade 2000 program, she said, is an example of how to use community outreach and innovation in sprucing up a deteriorating base. "Colonel Menser's the one we use to show others how to do things," she said.

The colonel, who has spent 27 years in the military, took over as garrison commander at Fort Meade nearly two years ago.

Faced with a changing role for the military and the loss of 8,100 acres of old firing ranges, he embarked on an aggressive campaign to transform the base from a training ground for soldiers -- used as recently as the Persian Gulf War -- to a federal office park.

He is having most of the asbestos-filled barracks built during World War II demolished and plans to realign roads and build an office park along Route 175, near the main gate on the Boomtown strip in Odenton.

In 1995, three Pentagon schools that train military public affairs officers will be consolidated at Fort Meade, bringing 1,000 students and staff members with them.

The fort is also the preferred choice for a $40 million Environmental Protection Agency laboratory and science center, which could be the first tenant for the office park.

The colonel has been praised for his outreach to schools, where military officials serve as mentors for students and donate desks and computers.

He also brought in teen-agers from inner-city neighborhoods in Baltimore and Prince George's County and paid them to fix up the post.

That sort of program, Ms. Menig said, was unheard of in the military just a few years ago, when the simple task of painting an office could take years as paperwork and bids clogged the system.

County Council Chairman David G. Boschert, who represents West County, said Colonel Menser has done "an outstanding job. He will be sorely missed."

Colonel Menser said he will have to move off base but that he wants to remain in the area. He said he will pursue a job in public service but would not say whether that included running for political office.

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