Col. Rhett A. Blackmon assumed command from Col. Tim R. Vail as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Galveston District commander during a change of command ceremony, held July 15 at the District’s headquarters in front of a crowd of family, District employees and distinguished visitors.
On top of handing over command to Blackmon, Vail also celebrated his retirement from the Army after 25 years of service.
Col. Kenneth N. Reed, USACE Southwestern Division commander, presided over the ceremony.
Reed opened with remarks on the importance of the time-honored military tradition of changing command and touched on the legacy Vail leaves behind at Galveston.
“For those of you that know Tim, you are aware of his passion and dedication to improving the lives of folks along the Texas coast,” Reed said. “I want to thank the Galveston District for the tremendous support provided to Col. Tim Vail’s successful command. I trust that under Col. Blackmon’s command you will continue to be the ‘Champions of the Texas Coast.’”
Vail then took to the podium to welcome guests and address the Galveston District one last time.
He recalled a faux pas from a year ago in which a Galveston employee brought him cookies though he never returned the container. In true Vail fashion, he made sure to call them out from the crowd to return their Tupperware.
“Okay. Now that we’ve taken care of that, I think I have some closure. I think I can hand off command properly,” Vail said to the crowd’s laughter.
He thanked his immediate and extended family for being there and—most importantly—his wife, Rachel, whom Vail credits for keeping him and his family whole.
Vail spoke on the sacrifice military families make in service to the country and surprised his daughters with a gift of a diamond ring. “I want to make sure the first diamond you ever receive is from me, the man no boy can ever live up to.”
He went on to thank Reed for his guidance and leadership and welcomed Blackmon and his family to the Galveston District.
“I have been to every district in the Corps of Engineers and can assure you are taking command of the most strategically important civil works district in the Army,” Vail said to Blackmon. “The Champions are fortunate to have such a wonderful command team.”
Vail touched on all the work the Galveston District has done to increase resiliency along the Texas coast and bring value to its communities.
“We’ve spent the last three years preparing. We’ve rebuilt the Galveston District team … We’ve strengthened our partnerships and earned their confidence and the confidence of our elected leaders that we can deliver. We’ve grown every facet of our organization and increased our capability, our capacity, and our competence to meet this moment where we must be relevant for our partners, for our communities, for our state, and for our nation,” Vail said.
The outgoing commander made one final farewell to his team.
“To my fellow Champions, the hardest thing about departing is part of me feels like I’m losing my family … My only failure in my career is if I leave and you don’t truly know how much I care about all of you,” Vail said. “It is my privilege and honor to call you what you are: Champions of the Texas Coast.”
Vail then gave way to Blackmon who addressed the Galveston District for the first time as its commander.
Blackmon cited the amount of work the District has started on the Texas coast just in the last few years and acknowledged how intimidating it is to take that on.
“Challenge accepted,” he said. “As we deliver the increased storm resiliency, environmental restoration, and safe navigation on the Texas coast, my confidence stems from my belief that there is no team of teams better suited to meet the current moment than the team of teams represented here today.”
Blackmon touched on the talent, dedication, and determination he observed from the Galveston District team in the months he spent receiving pass down from Vail.
“Champions of the Coast, you’ve accomplished so much, and we have so much more to do together,” Blackmon said.
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