The U.S. ArmyCommunication-Electronics Command officially welcomed its 20th commander, Maj. Gen. Robert S. Ferrell, Feb. 9 in a ceremony on the campus of the C4ISR Center of Excellence at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Ferrell took over one of the major operations that moved to APG from Fort Monmouth, N.J., as part of the six-year BRAC process completed last summer. He succeeded Maj. Gen. Randy Strong, who is retiring from the Army after 34 years and who led CECOM's move to APG from New Jersey.
"You honor me with your spirit, your energy and your passion for service and excellence … I feel tremendously blessed to come back home to CECOM as your commander," Ferrell told his new workforce during his change of command ceremony.
The ceremony's presiding officer, Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody, commanding general of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, described Ferrell as "hard as steel and able to cut through bureaucracy like a samurai."
"He is the right leader to take this command into the next decade and to the next level," she said.
Ferrell spoke of his commitment to continue the special relationship between the military community of APG and the greater Aberdeen community.
"My goal is that this dialogue will continue our focus on soldier and family readiness, and reinforce the strong relationships that will continue to shape the future of this organization and our community," he said.
As the CECOM commander, Ferrell leads a worldwide organization of more than 12,000 military and civilian personnel responsible for coordinating, integrating and synchronizing the life-cycle management of the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems for all of the Army's mission areas.
Ferrell has had a lifetime of experience leading to this position. He showed promise early in his career as he attained the rank of sergeant before leaving active duty in 1981. He completed his undergraduate degree at Hampton University and was commissioned Aug. 15, 1983 as an Army Signal Corps officer. He received a Master of Science in Administration from Central Michigan University and a Master of Science in Strategy from the U.S. Army War College.
Ferrell has served in multiple Signal commands during his career to include commanding the 13th Signal Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division and the 2d Signal Brigade, 5th Signal Command. His most recent assignment was the director of the Command and Control, Communications and Computer Systems J-6 and chief information officer for the U.S. Africa Command during which he spent considerable time on the African continent.
Ferrell is the son of Howard Ferrell, of Tinton Falls, N.J., and Georgian Ferrell, of Neptune, N.J. He spent his formative years as a teenager on Fort Monmouth, when his father was part of the command. His father entered the Army Signal Corps in 1952, campaigned in the Korean and Vietnam Wars and retired from active service at Fort Monmouth in 1974 as a sergeant first class.
In his change of command address, Ferrell asked six things of his new workforce: "Live by the Army standards and values; commit to excellence every day; demonstrate strong leadership and teamwork; be innovative, agile and responsive; be transparent and communicate openly; and finally, care for our teammates and family members."
Led BRAC move
Strong, the outgoing CECOM commander, is a West Point graduate who served 34 years with the Army. Strong came to APG from Fort Monmouth, as part of the BRAC relocation, and he and his organization became key players in the growth at APG from base realignment.
Strong previously commanded signal units at both the battalion and brigade levels, eventually reaching the position of the Army's 33rd Chief of Signal. Strong served as the chief information officer/J6 for the Pacific Command, the largest regional combatant command in the Department of Defense. He also commanded two installations, Fort Gordon, Ga., and Fort Monmouth.
Strong served as the G-6's Director of Architecture, Operations, Networks and Space in the Pentagon and, as a culmination to his career, became the commanding general of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command.
To the APG community, Strong became best known for his role in the Fort Monmouth move.
"I've got to say that I'm immensely proud of CECOM for the way we executed this BRAC transition," he said. "If you're among the community of folks in the Department of the Army that were responsible for BRAC, they will tell you that CECOM really led the way whether it was in the databases we had that kept track of our people, the way we did the transfer of function letters or the way we did the logistics move contract with the 800 plus vans."
Strong said that while BRAC was painful for the workforce in the short term it was the right thing for the long-term future of the command. CECOM's relocation to APG created a collaborative environment called the C4ISR Center of Excellence, comprised of C4ISR and Army testing community members in one place designed to create efficiencies and synergy to further the network modernization effort.
"CECOM really gained by this decision," Strong said. "This [APG] is a world-class facility that we did not have at Fort Monmouth. This relocation really postures the command well for the future in order to be responsive to the Army's needs and to be relevant to the Army of tomorrow."
Strong predicts the Army will move in a direction of executing smaller counter terrorism operations, which he expects to tremendously increase the demand for C4ISR systems and sustainment support.
To meet the Army's future C4ISR requirements, he advises the CECOM workforce to look toward the future and take advantage of professional development opportunities to remain trained, ready, relevant and competitive in the workforce.
"This is a truly a world-class organization and the CECOM workforce is comprised of very dedicated people, and I saw that every place I went. I'm in awe of the tremendous workforce," he said.