Fort Hood parade fields were packed last week as four brigades welcomed new commanders, while bidding farewell to the colonels who led them for the past two years.

“Summer marks the traditional season of change in our Army,” said Maj. Gen. Warren Phipps, commander of First Army Division West, during a ceremony for the division’s 166th Aviation Brigade. “Change is a known constant in our Army. We cannot shy away from the change. Instead we embrace it.”

Here is a recap of Fort Hood’s ceremonies. Read the full versions online at

3rd Brigade Combat Team

For the fourth time, Col. David Lesperance said goodbye to the 1st Cavalry Division.

“My entire career has been a set of experiences in this division,” he said Thursday morning as he prepared to hand over the reins of the division’s 3rd “Greywolf” Brigade Combat Team. “Every one of those jobs has prepared me for what I’m going to do next.”

As he heads to serve as III Corps’ chief of staff, Col. Matthew Van Wagenen stepped in as the new Greywolf commander.

“I expect nothing but great things from this formation in the coming years,” Lesperance said.

Van Wagenen joins the brigade from his most recent position on staff at Regional Command East in Afghanistan. This is his first time stationed at Fort Hood.

“I’m looking forward to getting connected with the community down here. It’s legendary, the cooperation between Fort Hood and the community,” he said.

2nd Brigade Combat Team

After leading 3,200 soldiers on a deployment to Afghanistan, Col. Robert Whittle bid farewell to 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, during a ceremony Friday at Cooper Field.

“The brigade excelled at every challenge,” said Brig Gen. Michael Bills, division commander. “(Whittle) led from the front and set the perfect example.”

Whittle led the brigade for nearly two years, which included the deployment and the train up at Fort Hood and at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.

“Today the leadership of the brigade changes ... but this brigade continues a full sprint to prepare for its next victory,” said Whittle, who is heading off to the Marine Corps War College in Quantico, Va.

Col. Sean Bernabe stepped in Friday as the new brigade commander, calling Black Jack a “well-oiled machine.”

Bernabe comes to Fort Hood from the National War College at Fort NcNair, Washington, D.C. This is his first stop at Fort Hood during his 22-year career and he is joined by his wife, Jayne, and 14-year-old son Jackson.

“I look forward to service together as we write the next chapter of Black Jack history,” he said.

1st Medical Brigade

After 17 months at the helm of the 1st Medical Brigade, Col. (promotable) Bertram C. Providence addressed his troops for the final time during a Friday ceremony at Sadowski Field.

“The Good Book says that there is a time and place for everything,” Providence said. “All things must end. It has been a great privilege — I left everything on the field — but now I must move on.”

After passing the flag to Col. Allan J. Darden, Providence leaves Fort Hood behind to become the Forces Command Surgeon at Fort Bragg, N.C.

From his time at Fort Hood, Providence said the events of April 2 stood out — not because of the on-post shooting that left four soldiers dead, including the gunman, and 16 more injured; but because of the resiliency exhibited by the 1st Medical Brigade in its aftermath.

“When the event occurred, they pulled out their resiliency resources,” Providence said. “You cannot be ready if you’re not resilient, and you cannot be resilient if you’re not ready.”

Providence said he is leaving the brigade in capable hands. Darden comes to Fort Hood from the Office of the Surgeon General human resources office.

“(Providence) left me a great foundation to build on,” Darden said. “It’s a privilege and an honor to lead soldiers.”

This is Darden’s first time at Fort Hood, and he said he is looking forward to getting better acquainted with his new home.

“I understand why they call it the Great Place,” he said. “The leadership and the community here is awesome.”

166th Aviation Brigade

Col. Kevin Vizzarri described his replacement as commander of First Army Division West’s 166th Aviation Brigade as “the real deal,” during a Monday morning ceremony at Cameron Field.

After two years leading the “Greywing” Brigade, Vizzarri relinquished his post to Col. Christopher Albus.

“Greywings, I can tell you, you are getting a great commander who is a perfect replacement,” he said.

Vizzarri, who is married with two young sons, is retiring after 25 years as an Army officer.

As the only aviation brigade in First Army, the 166th mobilizes, trains and validates Reserve component aviation units, consisting of 48 percent of all U.S. Army aviation assets, to meet the needs of combatant commanders.

Albus joined the Greywings with his spouse, Christine, and three children from West Fort Hood’s Operational Test Command, where he served as director of the U.S. Aviation Test Directorate.

“I’m fully confident in your leadership, competence and character,” Phipps said. “The 166th will be great in your hands.”

Also during the ceremony, the brigade’s Command Sgt. Maj. Glen Vela relinquished the noncommissioned officers’ sword to Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Bailey, who most recently served with Fort Hood’s Warrior Transition Brigade.

The Army hasn’t announced Vela’s next assignment.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here. You can contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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