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Homeland Security

GTMO Guard Force Leadership Changes Hands

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS090903-16
Release Date: 9/3/2009 3:49:00 PM

By Army Staff Sgt. Blair Heusdens, Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay Public Affairs

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (NNS) -- The Navy Expeditionary Guard Battalion (NEGB) welcomed its new commander during a change of command ceremony at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay Sept. 1.

Cmdr. Richard Hess assumed command from Cmdr. Michael Fulgham. NEGB mans, trains and equips a guard force to support the Joint Detention Group at Joint Task Force (JTF) Guantanamo.

Fulgham assumed command of the battalion in September 2008 after serving 19 years in the Navy. His next assignment will be with the operations department aboard Carrier Strike Group 1 in San Diego, Calif. Fulgham has also been selected for promotion to captain.

"Command is one of the most enjoyable and most challenging aspects of a naval career," Fulgham said during the ceremony. "It's never for the pay, it's always the people you work for and watching them grow and learn the job without you looking over their shoulder."

During his command, Fulgham led the battalion through four company rotations of nearly 600 personnel and a nearly 90 percent retention rate.

According to Navy Rear Adm. Carol Pottenger, commander of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, Fulgham worked to improve relationships at all levels within the chain of command to obtain better gear and quality of life for the service members. Against the backdrop of the intense physical and psychological demands of the mission, he was instrumental in ensuring access to combat stress services for the service members in his command. He also played a pivotal role in infrastructure improvement, project development and upgrades within all the camps – both for detainee comfort and better working conditions for the guard battalion.

Pottenger praised Fulgham for his tireless devotion to duty and intense focus on the mission. She went on to compare Fulgham to words from a book written by retired Vice Adm. Jim Stockdale, "Thoughts of a Philosophical Fighter Pilot."

"[According to Stockdale,] the true combat leader and warrior is also a teacher, a steward, a jurist and a moralist and a philosopher," said Pottenger. "I believe [Fulgham] lived these traits as the commander of the guard battalion. He taught his subordinates how critical it is to get this mission right; he was a steward for our nation's character, a student and teacher of the law and the Geneva Conventions. As a moralist, he learned and taught unimaginable things about human behavior and as a philosopher, he accepted everything that has happened here with stoic calm."

Fulgham turns over command as JTF Guantanamo prepares to close, according to an executive order signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year. In the meantime, the JTF standard continues to be providing safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody of the detainees, a mission now entrusted to Hess.

"There really couldn't be a more exciting and challenging time to be taking over here," said Hess.
"Change is inevitable and change is what we're about to face. Our task now is to transition the guard battalion and this entire organization through the coming change."

Hess graduated from the National War College in Washington, D.C., in June 2009, with a master's degree in national security strategy. He previously served as a civil affairs officer with the Army's 360th Civil Affairs Brigade in Iraq from April 2007 to July 2008.

His assignments at sea include service aboard USS Brooke (FFG 1), USS John King (DDG 3), USS Vandergrift (FFG 48), USS Scout (MCM 8) and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69).

Leadership present at the ceremony took time to praise the work of the battalion's guard force.

"Based on my impressions from my visits here and updates that I get from your commander, I draw an unequivocal conclusion that you are some of the finest examples of how to live our Navy Core Values of honor, courage and commitment," Pottenger said.



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