For the command team of Col. Jon Braga and Command Sgt. Maj. Carlos Esmurria, leaving Fort Irwin in July will be a bittersweet moment.
The two have been at the helm of Fort Irwin United States Army Garrison, the organization that manages the cantonment area of this military installation, since mid-2013. It will be 24 months by the time the change of command ceremony takes place, July 15.
In that time, Braga and Esmurria, have been part of a team whose mission is to sustain and improve the quality of life of Soldiers and family members who reside on this military installation – an installation with a very significant mission. That mission, which affects military readiness, involves everyone here in some manner, said Braga.
“The whole reason the National Training Center exists is for readiness of brigade combat teams,” Braga said. “I hope in our collective efforts that we have added to the resiliency of the community that directly relates to the readiness of the Army and the mission of the NTC.”
Also in that timeframe, the garrison team of Soldiers and civilian employees has gone through a development that has directly affected how challenges and projects for the benefit of the community have been worked on, said Esmurria.
“We introduced a new culture, a new vision, what our mission is going to be and how we’re going to [approach] leader development,” Esmurria said of the USAG team. “And we’ve grown immensely in that – in just how we think and how we approach things. We have different approaches – we’re thinking more strategically, we’re even attacking things from a very different way, because we’ve evolved. To me those are the memorable moments – seeing that growth, being at a command and staff (meeting) and seeing people talk differently or approach ideas differently, because the culture has changed – and we have allowed for that change to happen. To me that is what is very memorable for me – just seeing that inner growth in our population and how that has affected the community at large at the NTC.”
The garrison commander also expressed approval of the teamwork at USAG.
“I feel the pride of the garrison team realizing they are part of the ecosystem, here, and that their individual and collective efforts actually directly affects the readiness of the Army and national security,” Braga said.
Braga and Esmurria recounted some of the events and projects that took place these past two years, such as the flood of 2013. The flood affected more than 100 buildings and caused approximately $100 million in damages. Repairs continue to this day and personnel who have worked on the recovery have done so in a very selfless way, Braga said. It comes down to attitude.
Esmurria described the right attitude as true dedication and making choices to be part of a solution.
“You have a choice and you have an attitude,” Esmurria said. “For me personally, I look forward coming to work every day, because I have a great boss. And we have great command teams and we have some great people who truly are in it, not for themselves, but to make a program or the installation a better place. For me it was good to get up in the morning and come to work.”
The colonel stated that for those who serve here – although a remote location – the opportunities to perform their craft or military occupational specialty are present. Other opportunities for involvement and volunteering are also available.
There have been new and developing activities such as the Mud and Guts Run, the 50th Commemoration of the Vietnam War, The Day of Gratitude – where Gold Star families were honored, and the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program. Esmurria praised the advances made by BOSS in its participation.
“That was a young sergeant who just had the initiative and the drive to want to make something happen and we had a great rise in the BOSS program – everything from volunteering to leisure,” Esmurria said about Sgt. Kohl Bebee.
The command sergeant major stated his mantra of: live a life of service and make every minute count.
“Always strive to do the best you can to be part of the team,” Esmurria said. “It takes dedication to your craft, living a responsible life, taking care of your family, and it takes supporting initiatives and supporting the community.”
Braga acknowledged that it is not always easy and appreciates the dedication by the workforce.
“The magic really is the great team here in this remote and isolated environment – this harsh environment, with reduced resources, reduced man-power – but still making mission at the end of the day in supporting this community,” Braga said.
Braga also praised his right-hand man and said he was happy to be changing command the same day as Esmurria relinquishes responsibility.
“Proud to have served alongside my battle buddy,” Braga said. “Could not have asked for a better teammate.”
“Likewise sir,” Esmurria said with a big smile.