U.S. Army Garrison Fort Hood bid farewell to Command Sgt. Maj. Antonio Leija Jr. during a change of responsibility ceremony at III Corps headquarters building on Friday.
Leija served as the garrison’s senior enlisted advisor for nearly two years when he relinquished responsibility to incoming garrison sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Byron C. Larsen.
Col. Henry C. Perry, the Fort Hood garrison commander, read a letter on behalf of the III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, who is currently deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
“Dear Command Sgt. Maj. Leija, I join many others in congratulating you on your successful relinquishment of responsibility, you have done a tremendous job throughout your tenure as the Fort Hood garrison command sergeant major and have made the ‘Great Place’ even greater. Our nation bestowed on you a great honor and an awesome responsibility. Few opportunities compare to that of leading soldiers, our sons and daughters. Know that your contributions have made our Army a better organization and your future accomplishments will continue to make the Army and the lives of our soldiers better every day,” the letter read.
Perry said Leija was a wonderful teammate that was rock steady and solid.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we say farewell to Command Sgt. Maj. Tony and Jen Leija today,” Perry said. “I could not have asked for a better commander sergeant major.”
Perry said Leija dedicated his time and effort to make sure the garrison sustained the right culture and took care of the large population the installation hosts with the resources it has and discussed the responsibilities of the garrison sergeant major.
“Responsible for synchronizing support to 36,000 soldiers, 5,000 civilian employees, nearly 35,000 family members in the surrounding local communities, with 13,000 dependents on post and nearly 290,000 retirees, veterans and survivors who depend on our installation,” Perry said.
Perry said the garrison command sergeant major was critical to the installation.
“Truly an important leader, necessary to ensure this installation remains a viable and enduring national asset into the future,” Perry said. “Command Sgt. Maj. Leija you did a magnificent job, not only as the right-hand man to Col. (Todd) Fox (previous garrison commander) and myself, but for the soldiers and families depending on all of us, well done.”
Perry then welcomed the incoming garrison command sergeant major.
“Command Sgt. Maj. Larsen brings with him great leadership experiences and tactical assignments that will get him off to a great start,” Perry said. “I look forward to working with you and forging into the future, leading the Fort Hood garrison.”
Leija thanked his family, friends, superiors, peers and subordinates, as well as the local community officials in attendance for their support in taking care of soldiers. Leija said in the Army as one leader leaves, another one comes to take his or her place.
“One leader leaves, you bring in another great leader, out with the old and in with the new,” Leija said. “We are blessed to have Command Sgt. Maj. Larsen coming onboard as the garrison sergeant major.”
Leija also had a bit of advice for his previous garrison commander, Fox, and Perry.
“I recommend you all work on your golf game, because if you continue to work, you can excel like myself,” Leija said.
Leija asked guests to keep the deployed soldiers in their thoughts and prayers before turning over the podium to Larsen.
“I’m really excited to be back here at the ‘Great Place,’” Larsen said. “I’m blessed with the unique opportunity to come back to the best installation in the Army to live and to work with the most dedicated and supported communities.”
Leija was awarded a Legion of Merit for his tenure as garrison sergeant major and will head to his next assignment as the operations noncommissioned officer of the operations, plans and training office at the Headquarters of Installation Management Command in San Antonio.
Larsen has been in the Army for 27 years and previously served as the command sergeant major for the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York.