In a ceremony that drew Fort Benning’s top brass, Col. Felix L. Santiago relinquished command Thursday morning of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation to Col. Glenn R. Huber Jr.
Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, commander of the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, was the guest speaker and host of the event, which was also attended by Maneuver Center of Excellence Commander Maj. Gen. Michael Ferriter.
“Col. Felix Santiago, you can be proud of the legacy you leave behind,” Caslen said. “You will be remembered as an exceptional, competent and compassionate commander.”
Santiago became the commandant of the institute on July 29, 2008. Under his leadership, the school expanded to include the instruction of an additional 500 students per year. He also helped to promote the institute’s mission by utilizing social media such as Facebook and Twitter and oversaw the graduation of approximately 3,000 students hailing from more than 20 nations in the Western Hemisphere.
It was a bittersweet day for Santiago, who will soon retire from the Army after 30 years. The former commandant won’t sit idle for long, however, as he recently volunteered to return to active duty for a one-year tour in Afghanistan where he’ll serve as the chief liaison officer to the ministry of defense of Pakistan for the International Joint Command of the International Security Assistance Force.
“WHINSEC and Fort Benning are very special,” Santiago said. “They’re very much part of the fabric and the strength of our nation and the Americas ... WHINSEC’s motto of freedom, peace and brotherhood are very powerful reflections of the contributions this institute makes day-to-day in support of a secure hemisphere.”
Huber rejoins the institute and the Fort Benning community fresh off a deployment to Baghdad, where he served as the chief of staff of the Iraq security mission. It’s been almost a decade since Huber served as an instructor at the school, and he said he and his family are excited to live once again in the Chattahoochee Valley.
“It feels great to be back at WHINSEC,” he said. “It feels great to be at Fort Benning and the Columbus community. This was the place that we wanted to come back to. My initial intention was just to call this home, but the Army gave me this last opportunity and we’re cherishing it, both me and my wife, Norma, and I look forward to working with the greater community.”