How does a battalion conduct a change of responsibility ceremony, when social distancing prevents passing the colors? That was just one of many unique challenges tackled during the April 30 ceremony streamed live from Thurman Auditorium, as outgoing Headquarters Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Rob Cleveland relinquished duties to incoming Command Sgt. Maj. Michel Fraser.
Thinking outside the box, the command team decided that, instead of passing the guidon from one Soldier to another, Lt. Col. Andrew Wilbraham, battalion commander, maintained a safe distance and shared a salute with each of them as the traditional ceremony was described. Wilbraham said it was like nothing he’d been involved in.
“This has been one of the most unusual ceremonies I’ve conducted in the Army, yet I’d like to give a special acknowledgement to the Soldiers and leaders of the battalion, as well as the garrison staff, who allowed this to be possible. With your commitment and hard work, you have taken a unique situation and allowed this special event to go forward and I thank you for it.”
Wilbraham heaped praise on the outgoing command sergeant major, saying Cleveland’s resilience in unexpected situations makes him such an impressive leader.
“I could not have had a better battle than Sergeant Major Cleveland. He has worked with numerous commanders in his 30 months as CSM, and his priority in that time has been the highest standard, as well as being a rock to the Soldiers,” said Wilbraham.
“What he has done during the current pandemic sums it up best,” he said. “Sergeant Major Cleveland excelled in coordinating numerous, disparate organizations and positioning manpower for diverse missions, like guards, screeners, patrols and reserves throughout the organization.
He did all this while still ensuring the major functions of the battalion team.
“Finally, for the last four weeks, has been the acting garrison command sergeant major, assuming both roles, in addition to his regular and special duties,” added Wilbraham. “Also during this time, he completed his bachelor’s degree. I could not have done my job without him.”
Cleveland, who retires in a few months after 30 years of Army service.
“Thank you for taking the time out of your day to support me. My heart is filled with pride and my eyes with tears, when I realize I am at the end of this great and rewarding experience as command sergeant major Headquarters Battalion; one of only three such units in the Army’s inventory.
Cleveland said he and Wilbraham, also retiring soon, made a great command team, who spoke with one voice, and more times than not, thought along the same lines. “I told him on more than one occasion, it is refreshing and empowering to be heard. Your willingness to listen objectively sets you apart from many of your peers,” Cleveland told Wilbraham.
“The Soldiers and civilians who make up the staff of this unique headquarters battalion are truly exceptional,” Cleveland said. “A small team, in comparison to most Army battalions, who worked tirelessly to accomplish the many requirements placed on the battalion. The headquarters and headquarters company, led by a phenomenal command team, who are short on manpower, but long on willpower, accomplished any task given them without complaint and above standards.
The incoming CSM said she is looking forward to building the command team.
“I will lead by example, and serve with honor, loyalty, character, integrity, passion, self-service and respect. My family and I are honored to be a part of such a great organization. I’m excited and ready to serve at this level,” Fraser said.