In a rare display of pomp and circumstance for the Charlottesville area’s military community, servicemembers and civilians gathered at the National Ground Intelligence Center on Tuesday as outgoing Col. Stephen Gomillion welcomed his successor, Col. Nichoel Brooks, to the station’s command post.
With the passing of the brigade’s colors from Gomillion to Brooks, the station recognized the transfer of responsibility from one commander to the next.
Complete with fife and drum play courtesy of the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the ceremony had all the regalia national intelligence agencies are often wary of embracing.
Tuesday was an exception, spokeswoman Rita McIntosh said.
For more than half a century, the nation’s primary center for ground-force intelligence, which employees more than 1,000 civilians and servicemembers at its facility in northern Albemarle, has had a quiet but significant presence in the area, according to McIntosh.
Gomillion served as the center’s commander for 25 months between 2011 and 2013.
He will go on to serve as executive officer to the director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency outside of D.C.
Taking the dais Tuesday morning, Brooks thanked an audience of military and civilian personnel, as well as visiting figures from the nation’s capital and overseas.
“I stand here today, grateful,” she said, “as we transfer from one leader to another.”
Before coming to Charlottesville, Brooks served as the executive officer to the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington.
She is only the second woman to command the station. Gomillion’s predecessor, Col. Lisa Price, became the first when she assumed the post in June 2009.
Brooks took the opportunity Tuesday to remind those in attendance that the change in command was not only a time of transition, but a time of reflection for an intelligence network that has spent the last six months weathering public scandal and ongoing budget cuts.
“Intelligence is the single-most important enabler for challenging 21st-century threats,” Brooks said. But, “the single greatest threat to our national security is our inability to work together.”
Gomillion reinforced his successor’s message of teamwork and collaboration among agencies and departments, especially in trying times.
“You have an enormous task ahead of you,” Gomillion told his colleagues and coworkers. “You will confront a new set of challenges.”
But turning to Brooks, Gomillion affirmed that he trusted the incoming commander with the responsibility and leadership of his former post.
“This organization spans the range from space to mud,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Fogarty, commanding general of the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, told the audience. “There’s very few places that someone can go and say very truthfully that you save lives.”
Fogarty said the center has played a crucial part in preparing the country’s men and women in arms as they move forward to face the constantly evolving capabilities of America’s combat enemies.
“Sometimes that capability isn’t very sophisticated,” he said, “but it’s still effective.”
Under Gomillion, the intelligence center has played a key role in defending the nation’s interests, and will continue to do so under Brooks, Fogarty said.
“Col. Gomillion was the perfect choice for this mission,” Fogarty said. “But the NGIC is going to remain in great hands. Nichoel, I know you will serve these soldiers well.”