Helping soldiers leave Fort Gordon en masse is nothing new for retired Lt. Col. Thomas I. Fitzpatrick.
For three years he was the commander of the 15th Signal Brigade and was responsible for hundreds of soldiers shipping out for Christmas leave, known as Exodus, and for students shipping out to their duty stations after graduation.
Readying a contingent for the Middle East is along the same lines, he said.
"I steer the ship; there's a lot of other people who make it go forward," said Mr. Fitzpatrick, who took over on Jan. 13 as Fort Gordon's garrison operations manager. He retired from the Army on Aug. 1.
As the 63rd Signal Battalion readies for deployment in the war against terrorism, there are many things Mr. Fitzpatrick's office must do to see that the 400 soldiers and their equipment make it safely to their destination.
How long it will take the 63rd to arrive in the Middle East will depend on several factors, but it could be anywhere from one week to one month, he said.
"It depends on where they are in the flow" with the other units being shipped to the region, he said.
One member of his office coordinates the dates and makes sure there is transportation from post, whether it is an Air Force plane or a commercial jet, and ensures equipment makes it on the right ship or plane.
Other duties include overseeing the Army reserve units that arrive on post. A group of 23 Army reservists arrived Jan. 21 to assist the blood unit at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center.
The Installation Operations Center also is under his leadership. The center, which once was open only during crisis situations, has been open 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Force protection is a large part of his job, he said.
Mr. Fitzpatrick said he's excited to be the first civilian garrison operations manager, a post that once was part of the directorate of plans, training and mobilization and was headed by a lieutenant colonel.
"I always had my sights on emergency management," he said. "This was a blessing from above."
As a civilian, he brings a measure of stability to the job.
"One of my charters is to try to help synchronize the staff," he said. "A civilian gives stability and can develop relationships over the long term."
And he's found the job challenging.
"There's never been a dull moment since I've been here," he said.
Reach Charmain Z. Brackett at (803) 441-6927 or email@example.com.
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