A new commander, Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks (right), prepares to take over the Third Army on Friday at Fort McPherson in Atlanta as Lt. Gen. William Webster (center) prepares to retire and the base prepares to close. Vincent was promoted to lieutenant general during the change of command ceremony.
Fort McPherson was the scene of coming and going Friday.
The soon-to-be-former military post saw a new commander take over the 3rd Army, and one of its major units held a ceremony marking its last days at the installation affectionately known as "Fort Mac."
A similar exit ceremony also occurred Friday at Fort Gillem, which is also heading for its end as a post under the Base Realignment and Closure plan. By Sept. 15, the 1st and 3rd Army units, as well as the U.S. Army Reserve Command and the U.S. Armed Forces Command Center -- which control troop movements worldwide -- must complete their relocations to posts in Illinois, North Carolina and South Carolina. Most of that work has already been completed.
The 3rd Army, "Patton's own," installed its new commander, Gen. Vincent Brooks, during a ceremony Friday, only a week before the unit will encase its flag and move to Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. Gen. Vincent Brooks replaced retiring Gen. William Webster.
Several hours later on the same field, the U.S. Army Reserve Command had its “colors casing” ceremony to mark the end of its assignment at the sprawling post in south Atlanta. The unit’s move to Fort Bragg, N.C., is almost completed.
The 1st Army at nearby Fort Gillem had its “colors casing” ceremony later Friday afternoon to formerly mark its move to Rock Island, Ill.
The U.S. Armed Forces Command Center also is moving to Fort Bragg from Fort McPherson.
President Barack Obama’s nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, told those gathered Friday morning that the change-of-command ceremony was “bittersweet” as thousands of soldiers are leaving a post that has been known as Fort McPherson since 1885.
Five cannons sounded three times each in honor of Brooks. Then he climbed into the back of a Humvee for a slow drive to inspect the troops standing at attention as temperatures climbed into the mid-90s. At least two soldiers were taken off the field as they began to show the effects of the heat.
Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem are among several bases to be closed under the BRAC plan adopted in 2005.
Some military presence will remain on the two properties that once were home to almost 79,000 workers, including active military, retired military and civilians. The Department of Veterans Affairs will have a clinic at Fort McPherson, and the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Lab will remain at Fort Gillem, which spreads over 1,427 acres.
Otherwise, the properties will be developed.
Fred Bryant, executive director of the Forest Park/Fort Gillem Implementation Local Redevelopment Authority, said most of the Army post will be converted for industrial use or green space.
The authority focusing on Fort McPherson is working to create an "institution for global health" for research and to surround that with parks, offices and homes. Much of the property is classified historic, said Jack Sprott with the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority. "We want private ownership," Sprott said.