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Army Corps of Engineers holds change of command ceremony

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, center, passes the colors to Col. Mark Quander, left, symbolizing the change of command of the Transatlantic Division from Brig. Gen. David Hill, right, to Quander. Second from right is Command Sgt. Major John Etter. Max Lee/Daily

WINCHESTER — The Transatlantic Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a new commander for the second time in a year.

In a change-of-command ceremony on Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the chief of engineers and the commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, thanked Brig. Gen. David Hill for his time as the division’s commander.

“[Hill] and his leadership here made sure that you could deploy [civilians and soldiers] into a combat zone and bring them out,” Semonite said.

The change of command ceremony began with the passing of colors. Command Sgt. Maj. John Etter Jr. lifted a flag and handed it to Hill. Hill then handed it to Semonite, who handed it to Quander.

Semonite said that the ceremony symbolizes a shift in command and loyalty within a division from one leader to another.

“It’s the formal arrangement to be able to say we have a new leader in place,” Semonite said.

Hill came into the position as the division commander in July, meaning that he served as the division’s commander for just 10 months. During Tuesday’s ceremony, Semonite said that he had hoped Hill would remain with the division for longer.

“I’ll be honest with you: I fought to try to keep [Hill] on for another year,” Semonite said.

Semonite said that he wants division commanders to remain in their positions for between two and three years.

But instead, in accordance with orders from Army officials, Hill will be headed to South Carolina, where he will serve as the deputy commander for the U.S. Army Central Command.

During the ceremony, Hill thanked Semonite for his support.

“You’ve really made my job easy here this year by stacking the deck with hand-selected, high-potential colonels to lead our district task forces,” Hill said.

Col. Mark Quander takes Hill’s place as the division’s commander. Quander recently served as director of the Office of Chief Engineers, Headquarters, Department of the Army at the Pentagon.

Citing Quander’s work in the Pentagon, Semonite said that the soldiers and civilians within the Transatlantic Division would remain in good hands.

“We’re really leaving you with a superstar general; he’s going to do a great job,” Semonite said.

In his speech, Quander said he was looking forward to working with the division.

“Thank you for your voice of confidence,” he said. “I’m extremely excited and very humbled to be given the opportunity to command this organization.”

The Transatlantic Division conducts engineering work in the Middle East and Afghanistan. In addition, Semonite said, the division conducts engineering work following natural disasters as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster response.

“It’s just not the fact that [the Transatlantic Division] people step up and deploy in the Middle East,” Semonite said. “But when needed, these great employees of yours have also stood up and gone into harm’s way in order to take care of the disaster response.”

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