The U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps came from Fort Myer to take part in a lengthy tradition.
photo by Maria Scheers-Masters
The ceremonial change of command is a time-honored tradition in the U.S. Army that dates back to George Washington. The chance for reporters to see inside the top-secret National Ground Intelligence Center on U.S. 29 north? Not so much. So a July 23 passing of the colors from one commander to the next offered a rare opportunity to see both.
Reporters were warned that no cellphones, cameras, or electronic devices were allowed into the spy facility. Even employees have to leave their phones at the door, explained NGIC spokeswoman Rita McIntosh. Five minutes before the ceremony began, the military and civilian contractors in the Nicholson Auditorium were advised to remove their badges–– that's so they can't be identified should official pictures somehow leak out, said McIntosh.
Top-level intelligence brass were on hand, as well as Albemarle Supe Ken Boyd and county Chief of Police Steve Sellers. A fife and drum corps symbolized the historical nature of the change of command and passing of loyalty from one commander to another. In this case, as part of the ceremony, Colonel Stephen Gomillion literally handed over the colors to incoming commander Colonel Nichoel Brooks.
The head of U.S. Army Intelligence and Security, Major General Stephen Fogarty, noted the alphabet soup of 1,600 intelligence gatherers working at the Rivanna Station along with NGIC— DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), NGA (National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the frequently-in-the news National Security Agency (NSA)— and called them the "crown jewels" of the Department of Defense intelligence.
Fogarty told those assembled to take pride in their mission of saving lives through intelligence gathering of foreign ground forces, weapons capabilities, and attack networks. "This organization spans the range from space to mud," he said.
While many businesses and organizations tout teamwork, Fogarty minced no words about its importance to the mission: "Those who fail to work as a team will quickly be eliminated. Intelligence is a team sport."
He quoted President Dwight Eisenhower on the importance of the spy game: "Success cannot be advertised: failure cannot be explained. In the work of intelligence, heroes are undecorated and unsung, often even among their own fraternity."
Outgoing commander Colonel Gomillion, who's headed the Rivanna Station since 2011 and is headed to NGA in Washington, also had a presidential quote, this one from Abraham Lincoln: "Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."
He also warned that NGIC faced "one of the most turbulent fiscal challenges in years."
Colonel Brooks, most recently executive officer to the DIA director, is the second woman to head the NGIC facility since it expanded north of town in 2005. Brooks did not cite a president, but reiterated, "Intelligence is the most important enabler for confronting the 21st-century threats."