Col. Gary G. Ridenhour, from left, outgoing commander, British Major Gen. Douglas Chalmers, III Corps deputy commander of support, Col. David A. Thomas, incoming commander, and CSM Demita V. Vital, incoming command Sergeant Major, salute during the 11th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade change of command and change of responsibility ceremony Friday at Fort Hood’s Sadowski Field.

Eric J. Shelton | Herald

FORT HOOD — During a change-of-command and change-of-responsibility ceremony for the 11th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade on Friday at Sadowski Field, Pfc. Michael Maybee rose above the rest.

Literally.

As commands for the troops assembled on the field were given, Maybee stood on a mechanical lift above the reviewing stand and used red-and-white flags to transmit the orders with semaphore signals.

British Maj. Gen. Douglas Chalmers, III Corps deputy commander, served as the reviewing officer for the ceremony. He acknowledged how appropriate it was for the “Thunderbirds” to use semaphore, since they are the best signal corps in the Army.

For them, said Chalmers, “It’s about getting the message through, not just about technology,” which was represented by the three satellite trucks parked behind the brigade.

Chalmers thanked the outgoing command team of Col. Gary C. Ridenhour and Command Sgt. Maj. Victor Fernandez II for being “compassionate leaders” who balanced caring for troops with maintaining preparedness for often short-notice missions.

Incoming commander Col. David A. Thomas was hailed by Chalmers as “combat proven.” He welcomed Command Sgt. Maj. Demita V. Vital as a “premier trainer” who has been battle-tested.

“You both have my implicit trust,” Chalmers said.

Ridenhour kept his statement short, “for the sake of brevity and the hot sun.”

While having hundreds to thank for his years of success, he praised Thomas.

“There couldn’t be a better commander to take the team to new heights,” Ridenhour said.

Fernandez spoke of his pride to have been part of “the best damned signal brigade in the Army. See you on the high ground.”

Thomas is “dedicated to keeping the brigade trained and ready” for whatever the future holds. “I promise to give you 100 percent, and ask the same of each of you,” he told the troops.

About returning to Fort Hood, Vital said, “It’s truly an honor to be back at ‘The Great Place.’ I will do my best to uphold the policy goals and mission of the Thunderbirds.”

She said she intends to “lead from the front and lead by example.”

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