Twenty-three years after starting his career at Fort Benning, Col. Michail “Gus” Huerter has returned to the post as garrison commander, a job commonly called the “mayor of Fort Benning.”
“It’s such an honor and privilege to be here to be back at Fort Benning where I started my career back in 1990,” Huerter said Friday after an 8 a.m. ceremony in front of McGinnis-Wickam Hall.
Huerter assumes the position formerly held by Col. Jeffrey Fletcher, a Columbus native and 1984 graduate of Kendrick High School. He has been reassigned to Afghanistan.
Huerter said he’s amazed at the development not only at Fort Benning but the surrounding communities of Phenix City and Columbus. The garrison commander said he’s looking forward to working with elected officials and the community to make the post the best installation in the Army.
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“People don’t just come here as a soldier to work,” Huerter said. “They come here to retire and live.”
The garrison commander manages the day-to-day operations of the post by providing base operations, public works and family support programs for soldiers and their families. Over the last two years, the garrison commander has been a key figure in the Army’s plans to acquire more training land, manage the upcoming furloughs of some 4,000 civilian employees and the possible loss of 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division from Kelley Hill.
Fletcher noted how the change of command was a little different than the day his brother handed him the keys to his chocolate Chevy Camaro Z28. Fletcher, a student at Florida A&M University with no transportation, said his brother Mike needed a responsible adult caretaker for the sport’s car during his year-long assignment to Okinawa as a U.S. Marine.
“I was very happy to help him out with his problem,” Fletcher said. “Needless to say, my brother had some serious reservations and perhaps rightfully so as be begrudgingly handed me the keys to care for his car while he was away. I tell you today as I relinquish the guidon, I unlike my brother who had every reason to be concerned, was able to do so with the comfort of knowing that the garrison is in good hands.”
The garrison command at Fort Benning is under the Installation Management Command southeast’s region. Director Davis D. Tindoll Jr. praised Fletcher for excelling during a time of challenges on post.
Fletcher frequently held town hall meetings to inform soldiers and families about quality of life issues, aided in the transformation of the Maneuver Center of Excellence and achieved Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design or LEED gold standard for McGinnis-Wickam Hall, a renovated building for maximum energy and environmental efficiency and other accomplishments.
Tindoll said the garrison command is the centerpiece of the Army Installation Management Command and the garrison commander is crucial to successfully accomplish the mission.
“The Army does not train its soldiers to be garrison commanders, but it does develop leaders who are capable, innovative and motivated to handle the challenges of garrison command,” Tindoll said.
Maj. Gen. H.R. McMaster, commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, said it was special to have a native son and daughter, Fletcher’s wife Patricia, who played such an important role in maintaining relationships with the Chattahoochee River Valley.
“As the Army gets smaller, it’s important that we get even better, but it’s important that we remain connected to our communities, the people in whose name we fight,” McMaster said.
Huerter graduated in 1990 from West Point and commissioned as a second lieutenant in the infantry. He has spent most of his time in the Ranger regiment and Special Operations. In his most recent assignment, Huerter was director of operations for the NATO Special Operations Command in Afghanistan.
He is the father of a son, Zachary, and daughter, Quincey. His daughter was at the ceremony, but Zachary is in training as a cadet at West Point.