Col Michelle D Mitchell2
A picture of the guidon-passing to Col. Michelle D. Mitchell, Fort Belvoir’s new garrison commander.

Two years after taking command of Fort Belvoir, a U. S. Army garrison in Fairfax County, Va., Col. Gregory D. Gadson passed the mantle of leadership to Col. Michelle D. Mitchell this week.

Mitchell, an African-American woman and native of Hebron, Md., began her military career in1983 as an enlisted soldier. More recently, she served in the Pentagon as chief of the Personnel Readiness Division and as commander of the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion.

She told the Belvoir Eagle she is excited for this newest opportunity.

“It is my pleasure to serve as garrison commander of Fort Belvoir,” said Mitchell. “My husband and I are excited to join the command team, and I look forward to working with the Garrison and community partners.”

During a command change ceremony on June 26, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, commanding general, of the Military District of Washington, praised the departing commander of Fort Belvoir Gadson for the legacy he had established and expressed confidence in Mitchell’s ability to continue in those footsteps.

“Greg has set a high bar,” said Buchanan, “but, I know Col. Mitchell will do a good job.”

Gadson holds a unique place in Army history. After sustaining wounds on May 7, 2007, from an improvised explosive device while deployed to Iraq, Gadson became the first double-amputee to serve as a garrison commander when he took over Fort Belvoir.

After developing a relationship with the New York Giants, whom he frequently addressed, Gadson was presented with Super Bowl rings from their 2007 and 2011 victories, making him the only garrison commander with two Super Bowl rings.

Gadson also had a supporting role in the 2012 science fiction naval war film, “Battleship,” in which he played a retired Army lieutenant colonel recovering from his war wounds in Hawaii when aliens attack the planet.

His colleagues say the notoriety never went to his head.

“My inspirational aspirations are collateral to me living my life. I’m just trying to be the best person I can be every day,” said Gadson, according to the Eagle. “When you meet me, I’m myself; I’m not an actor or a football player. As a leader, my job is to inspire anyone, not a specific group of people. That’s what you should expect … for me to be the best soldier I can be.”

More than his perseverance amid personal tragedy, people under his command praised his positive attitude, selfless leadership style, his dedication to open communication and willingness to empower his colleagues to do their jobs.

“When you work for a leader who trusts and empowers you to do your job; a leader who takes the time to mentor you when you need it; and a leader who recognizes your successful efforts – you typically want to follow that leader anywhere,” said Lt. Col. Brian P. Zarchin, USAG Fort Belvoir, Headquarters Battalion commander. “Col. Gadson is that kind of leader.”