Col. Kenneth O. McCreedy officially took command yesterday of Fort Meade, the sprawling Army post in western Anne Arundel County that is slated to gain thousands of new workers over the next several years.

On a grassy parade field, McCreedy succeeded Col. John W. Ives, who had commanded the 5,400-acre installation for three years.

Army, Marine, Navy and Air Force personnel stood at attention as Diane Devens, the civilian director of Fort Meade's Installation Management Agency, praised the outgoing Ives. He is leaving the Army to join MZM Inc., which specializes in intelligence collection and related technologies.

"He has postured this installation to be an important national asset in the years to come," she said of Ives, who has overseen post-Sept. 11 security measures, an environmental cleanup, and a housing expansion and rehabilitation program.

Before the official change of command, the two colonels performed a ceremonial review of the assembled honor guard as military bands played.

Then Ives formally relinquished command to McCreedy. Ives thanked installation personnel, civilian and military, for their work and praised the assembled troops specifically for volunteer efforts in the local community.

"The men and women standing before you represent more than 240,000 volunteer hours to our community and schools," he said. The installation, essentially a gated city, has its own schools, child-care programs and housing.

Ives noted that he had sat on the selection board responsible for assigning McCreedy to Fort Meade.

"I sat ... with six generals," he said. "Now you can say the colonel might have made a mistake [in choosing McCreedy], but generals are never wrong!"

McCreedy, 50, is a career intelligence officer who has served tours of duty in Panama, Germany and Bosnia-Herzegovina, and has received numerous military awards. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Washington and Lee University, a master's degree and doctorate in history from the University of California at Berkeley and graduate degrees from the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and the Army War College.

He was also a fellow at the National Security Agency, which is based at Fort Meade.

"I am humbled by the honor and responsibility of command and pray that I may be worthy," he said. He praised Ives and his wife, Diana, saying they had "imprinted themselves on the installation in an indelible way" and credited them with the creation of new housing and improving Fort Meade's relationship with the community.

Last month, a Pentagon commission recommended moving about 5,300 jobs to Fort Meade as part of a base realignment. As the post is slowly transformed into a national center for defense, intelligence and information technology, the next few decades are expected to see tens of thousands of new jobs created on-site. A private company is midway through a $400 million housing program at the post.

A growth-management plan for the post released recently recommends extending the Washington Metro's Green Line north from Greenbelt to Fort Meade.

Originally established as Camp Meade, a smaller facility for training ground troops, Fort Meade is now home to about 10,000 military personnel, officials said. The installation employs 25,000 civilians, making it the Army post with the fourth-largest work force in the continental United States.