Silver and grey clouds from east of the San Bernardino mountains provided respite from the summer heat as Col. Jonathan P. (Jon) Braga assumed command of United States Army Garrison at Fort Irwin, from Col. Kurt J. Pinkerton at a change of command ceremony, here, July 11.
In a time-honored Army tradition, Pinkerton returned the Fort Irwin Garrison flag to Installation Management Command Central Region Director Thomas J. Schoenbeck, who then presented the flag to Braga, entrusting him to lead Fort Irwin Garrison’s 60 Soldiers and 600 civilians and to oversee another 400 contract employees who together operate and maintain the Army’s only active duty garrison in Southern California.
In his remarks, Schoenbeck praised Pinkerton, saying, “Kurt successfully led the Fort Irwin Garrison through two of the most demanding years in history. He has done so with inspired leadership and a true passion for improving conditions here…in a truly remote area.”
Schoenbeck noted some of the new facilities for Soldiers and Families opened during Pinkerton’s tenure: Samuel Adams Grill, the Warrior Zone – one of only five in the Army, a water spray park, a family recreation area, a skateboard park, and a picnic pavilion. Schoenbeck noted Pinkerton was also instrumental in breaking ground for a new post hospital last May.
In his final address as garrison commander, Pinkerton said, “This has been the best educational experience in my career….What I’ve learned through interaction with a civilian and military workforce, a fire department and police, [is that] the essence of what makes our military so great …is a strong garrison…that provides for a community that allows for Soldiers to go out and do what they do.”
Pinkerton noted that more than 100 portable and temporary buildings from decades ago were demolished during the last two years, with personnel consolidated into central facilities. This has created more efficient operations and reduced the time Soldiers spent visiting offices for services they needed.
In addressing the audience, Braga noted, “Collectively, the Fort Irwin team’s efforts has made a difference in tens of thousands of families who have lived here at Fort Irwin and the hundreds of thousands of Soldiers and military personnel from our sister services and partner nations who have rotated through here to train before deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.”
“I am proud to return and become a member of this team and community once again,” Braga continued. “This is where I honed my skills as a Soldier. More importantly, this is where I met my beautiful Melanie, a local girl from Apple Valley, who has blessed me with our four beautiful children.”
Braga closed his remarks by saying, “I look forward again to rejoining this community and do what I can to carry on the tradition that Kurt and Karol (Col. Pinkerton’s wife) have kept on here. Support and Defend.”
A 1991 West Point graduate, Braga first served as an Infantry officer in Korea with the 2nd Infantry Division and later with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, here. After completing the Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg, N.C., Braga served with the 7th Special Forces Group, there, and at Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. He deployed multiple times to the Caribbean, Central and South America, and with humanitarian relief operations to Venezuela and Bolivia. Braga also deployed as a Special Forces officer to Afghanistan and Iraq during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After completing his masters degree at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., Braga served as the operations officer for a joint services organization in Washington, D.C., and served overseas in Iraq, across the Middle East and Africa, including commanding a forward deployed joint special operations task force. Braga comes to Fort Irwin from the Naval Post Graduate School at Monterey, Calif., where he served a year as an Army War College Special Operations Fellow.
Braga, an Attleboro, Mass., native, is married to the former Melanie Rohrbaugh of Apple Valley, Calif. The couple has four children.