WEST FORT HOOD — The commander of the Army’s independent tester relinquished command Thursday to head over to main post and join the 1st Cavalry Division.

Col. Joseph Martin stepped down as the commander of U.S. Army Operational Test Command, leaving the unit in the hands of its highest ranking civilian, James Amato, executive director, until a replacement can be named.

When he arrived at the command nine months ago, Martin said he thought he had the experience to come in and know the job, but was introduced to a side of the Army he’d never known before.

“I was leading in a domain I barely knew existed and I had little understanding,” he said. “Now, I stand before you understanding the business and the great importance of our mission.

“We are in the business of ensuring soldiers are never wanting on the battlefield. Operational Test Command has soldiers’ backs by providing robust and realistic operational testing,” Martin said.

Maj. Gen. Genaro J. Dellarocco, commander of the unit’s higher headquarters, the Army Test and Evaluation Command, outlined many of the things Martin was able to accomplish in his short time at West Fort Hood.

“It seems Operational Test Command has become a turnkey location for commanders to come in, get promoted and move out. That’s a good reputation, because the Army trusts this organization to groom its leaders,” he said.

During his tenure, Martin oversaw the unit’s biannual event, Network Integration Exercise 13.1, and planned for the next one, which will begin next week, Dellarocco said.

“He provided great stewardship, leadership and guidance to run a major exercise happening in a matter of days,” he said.

Dellarocco said he has no doubt in Amato’s ability to lead the command.

“I feel comfortable with you leading Operational Test Command through (the exercise) and beyond,” he said.

Amato previously stepped up to serve in as interim commander for seven months in 2008 and 2009.

Martin will join America’s First Team as the deputy commander of support, taking his new job, once again, from Brig. Gen. Laura Richardson, who also preceded him at the test command. Richardson has been assigned to Afghanistan to serve as the deputy chief of staff for strategic communication for the International Security Assistance Force.

Contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com 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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