Col. Timothy Druell, who spent a significant portion of his two-year tenure at Aberdeen Proving Ground ensuring that soldiers and civilians assigned to the Harford County Army post remained safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, announced on his last day as garrison commander that the installation’s health protection condition level would drop from “bravo” to “alpha” as of noon Wednesday.
Druell announced the change late Wednesday morning, following the formal transfer of the garrison command to his successor, Col. Johnny Casiano. Druell, who is heading to South Carolina for a new posting as protection chief with Army Central G36 at Shaw Air Force Base, became APG’s garrison commander in June of 2019.
“No one knew, two years ago when we stood on this stage, that in March 2020 we would be in such a predicament,” Druell said, reflecting on when he was given command of the garrison.
The ceremony Wednesday happened in an auditorium on post with many of APG’s military and civilian leaders in attendance, along with local county government, municipal and education leaders and state officials. Some attendees wore masks, but a large number of people did not.
Health protection condition alpha is the second-lowest out of five protection levels. The highest, “delta,” means there is “severe” transmission of a disease in the community, and the lowest, “zero,” means operations are routine, and personnel should take typical steps to avoid transmitting disease such as washing hands and avoiding close contact with those who are ill.
The current level for APG, alpha, means disease transmission is happening on a “limited” basis, and workers should take measures such as regular cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces. The previous level, bravo, indicates a “moderate” risk of disease transmission, according to a Defense Department blog post on health protection conditions.
Druell noted later that conditions at APG reflect conditions in the surrounding community, where the pandemic continues to recede as COVID-19 vaccines are widely available. Gov. Larry Hogan has announced that Maryland’s pandemic state of emergency will be lifted July 1.
Aberdeen Proving Ground, founded in 1917, is the largest employer in Harford County. More than 21,000 soldiers, DOD civilian employees and contractors work there, designing and testing military weapons, vehicles and equipment, as well as conducting public health research, developing protections against biological or chemical attacks, cybersecurity and employee background investigations.
“Nothing truly stopped,” Druell said of operations at APG during the pandemic. “It slowed a little bit with the onset of COVID, but we didn’t shutter our doors or close down.”
The garrison, which includes soldiers, civilian workers and contractors, is responsible for operations such as safety and security, public works, personnel, family support services, information technology, public affairs and planning and logistics, according to the APG website.
“For me, command has been more than just a job,” said Druell, who has been an Army officer since graduating from The Citadel military college in South Carolina in 1996, and he has been deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq multiple times.
“It’s a passion — a passion to build, develop and lead a team of professionals in a community which I so dearly love,” he added.
Druell became emotional as he talked about the connection he and his family feel to Aberdeen Proving Ground.
“It’s going to be hard to leave APG,” he said, noting that the post “will always have a special place in my heart as well as my family’s.”
Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo, senior commander of APG, and Davis Tindoll Jr., director of IMCOM sustainment for the Army’s Installation Management Command, praised Druell for his leadership during the pandemic, as well as his oversight of major capital initiatives such as a $500 million demolition of structures contaminated by prior biological and chemical testing, and $381 million worth of construction projects throughout the post.
Tindoll noted that the new garrison commander, Casiano — a 26-year Army veteran who also served in Afghanistan and Iraq — is “no stranger to the art and science of leadership.” Tindoll expressed certainty that Casiano will build on the success of his predecessors.
“The challenges will be many, but I’m confident you’ll bring great energy and excellence to the garrison team,” Tindoll told Casiano.
Casiano said he is excited to be at APG and grateful for “the opportunity to work with an incredible team of civilians, soldiers and community members in this wonderful state of Maryland.”
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“[I am] humbled to be a part of accomplishing Aberdeen Proving Ground’s mission for the United States Army,” he said.
Army readiness is the primary mission of those who work at APG, according to Kilgo, who said maintaining readiness ensures that “every troop at the tip of the spear has exactly what they need when they need it, and it allows us to be the dominant force that we are.”
The change-of-command ceremony involved the garrison’s senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. Ruth Drewitt, passing the garrison’s colors to Druell, who passed them to Tindoll. He then passed the colors to Casiano, and the new commander passed them back to Drewitt. As the senior NCO, Drewitt serves as “custodian of the colors,” according to Melissa Cocola, staff action control officer with the garrison.
“The passing of the colors demonstrates to the soldiers and civilians of the unit that the outgoing garrison commander has passed the mantle of leadership to the new garrison commander,” Cocola said as she narrated the ceremony.
Kilgo described the change-of-command ceremony as a “peaceful transition of power,” a hallmark of the United States and its representative government.
“This time-honored event, that you just witnessed here, is the greatest sign of democracy that you’ll ever see,” he told the spectators.
Kilgo emphasized that uniformed military service members “serve the country — we serve and support and defend the Constitution.”