Ceremony marks command change

Stewart takes charge of continuing changes at nontraditional post

July 28, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

With soldiers marching and flags flying, Col. John D. Frketic will hand over command of Fort Meade to Col. Michael J. Stewart this morning.

The change-of-command ceremony is a time-honored tradition in the military, and it is taking place at what has become a nontraditional post.

As Frketic moves on to a three-year position as an assistant to the commander of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Brussels, Belgium, he leaves behind a garrison teeming with tenants who lease space from the federal government.

That's similar to the situation Frketic found when he arrived at Ford Meade two years ago, replacing Col. David Toops, who visualized a campus atmosphere for the base. The vision came to fruition under Frketic's command.

Stewart will oversee the continuing transformation. Two projects he will work on are privatizing utilities and bringing a hotel to the post, Frketic said.

Under Frketic's command, there's been increased interest in Fort Meade as a place to do business, despite findings that it is severely polluted.

Several companies that work closely with the military or the National Security Agency have moved, or are planning to move, to the post, where the federal government leases space at little charge.

Since Frketic has been in command, the Defense Information School -- a military media school -- and a unit of the Environmental Protection Agency have made Fort Meade their home.

Last year, the post was placed on the EPA's list of the most-polluted sites in the country. The new commander will have to deal with those environmental problems, and it will likely be years before the base is taken off the EPA list.

The new commander will also have to ensure that roads are fixed, utilities are working and residents have space for child care and recreation.

"We've tried to make Fort Meade more of a user-friendly place," Frketic said in a recent interview. "Fort Meade is part of the community."

Today's ceremony will show the type of community that has evolved at Fort Meade. Dozens of people, from on and off the post, are expected to attend the change of command, which begins at 9 a.m.

Two companies -- fewer than 200 soldiers -- will march across McGlachlin Field for an inspection by Frketic and Stewart. They are the only troops who report directly to the outgoing commander. Of the approximately 1,000 people employed by the garrison, civilians outnumber military personnel by a more than 4-1 ratio.

Those bearing the American and Maryland flags at today's ceremony won't all be wearing Army green, either. The Joint Service Color Guard from the National Security Agency will wear uniforms representing nearly all branches of the military.

It's a change, and that's what a commander can expect at Fort Meade.

The post "has always been in the midst of change," Frketic said. "It's always been changing, and this won't be the last."

Pub Date: 7/28/99

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