A time-honored tradition: Army Corps of Engineers holds change of command ceremony

Brig. Gen. David C. Hill, left, accepts the flag of the Transatlantic Division colors from Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonte during the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division Change of Command and Change of Responsibility Ceremony held Friday in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division held a change of command ceremony Friday.

Maj. Gen. Robert D. Carlson is leaving the Transatlantic Division to go to work at the Pentagon for the secretary of the Army’s Manpower Reserve Affairs. Brig. Gen. David C. Hill is the incoming commander of the division.

During Friday’s ceremony, Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, chief of engineers,  described the tradition of the change of command.

“It really is a time-honored tradition,” Semonite said. “It’s something where we signify the continuity of trust and also to be able to signify the fact that we’re taking and transferring the authority from one great leader to another great leader.”

Friday’s event also had a “change of responsibility” for a changing command sergeant of the Transatlantic Division. Maj. Ronald E. Johnson is retiring; Maj. John W. Etter Jr. is taking his place.

Outgoing Commander Major General Robert D. Carlson, right, gets a hug from is father Earl C. Carlson at the ceremony on Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Semonite described Carlson as an effective leader for the Transatlantic Division, pointing to Carlson’s work on the Mosul Dam in Iraq.

That dam has been fraught with structural problems, which were made worse by the presence of Islamic State in the area. The U.S. State Department asked the Army Corps of Engineers to work on the dam.

Semonite pointed to a TV screen and camera set up so that members of the Transatlantic Division who are stationed in Iraq could see the ceremony.

“Today, on that TV screen, there are people in Mosul dam,” Semonite said.

Semonite said that Carlson earned the trust of the Iraqi government through his work on that dam.

Incoming commander Brig. Gen. David C. Hill addresses the crowd during the ceremony. Rich Cooley/Daily

“That is something that doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “And that story continues to evolve, but the fact that you guys have the trust and confidence not only of the United States State Department but you guys have it of some other country. That’s a big, big deal.”

At the end of his speech, Semonite walked away from the podium and stared at the camera that streamed the event to the soldiers in Iraq.

“The bottom line is we’ve got two great leaders coming out and two great leaders coming in,” Semonite said.

After Semonite finished speaking, Carlson spoke about the time-consuming nature of being commanding general of the Transatlantic Division.

“You know you’re getting a little crispy in the job when your best friend by day is called Five Hour Energy, and your best friend by night is called Ambien,” Carlson said. “I don’t think my doctor would appreciate my humor.”

Outgoing commander Maj. Gen. Robert D. Carlson addresses the crowd during the ceremony. Rich Cooley/Daily

Carlson finished his speech by thanking the people who worked under him.

“There have been ebbs and flows and peaks and valleys along the way, but never did I doubt the resolve and commitment of my amazing staff,” Carlson said.

Hill finished off the remarks.

“I could just say ‘great mission’ and ‘great people’ and step off,” Hill said.

But he did issue a few words, saying that he was excited to work as commanding general for the Transatlantic Division and thanking Carlson for his work in the transition.

Incoming commander Brig. Gen. David C. Hill, center, is flanked by his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Robert D. Carlson, left, and Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, right, commanding general as the group sings the engineer song Friday at the Army Corps of Engineers in Winchester. Rich Cooley/Daily