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Letterkenny, outgoing commander get high praise

August 31, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Col. William A. Guinn ended his three-year command of Letterkenny Army Depot and his military career Tuesday on a high note, with the plaudits of a superior officer and colleagues and the news that he had a grandson.

"By any measure, Letterkenny leads," said Maj. Gen. James H. Pillsbury of the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command. He called Letterkenny "the very best depot in the United States Army."

"You did it too fast. You did it too cheaply and the quality was high," Pillsbury told the hundreds of depot workers, dignitaries and guests assembled for the ceremony.

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Guinn passed the colors of command to Col. Robert A. Swenson, 46, a veteran of the Persian Gulf War whose previous assignment was as special assistant to the commanding general of the Army Materiel Command.

"The strength of the Army, the strength of the U.S. military is change," Pillsbury said of the change of command. He said Swenson will be aided by "the best work force in the Army and they will take Letterkenny to the next level."

"He knows what soldiers need and what soldiers want," Pillsbury said of Swenson, the 44th man to command the depot since it was built in the early days of World War II.

"The tradition of excellence will continue here at Letterkenny Army Depot," Swenson said.

It might be that the 2,700 government employees and contractors working at the depot owe their livelihoods in large measure to the leadership Guinn provided, according to several people at the ceremony.

The depot lost hundreds of jobs in 1995 when the Base Realignment and Closure Commission voted to realign the depot. This year, the Department of Defense recommended Letterkenny remain open and more jobs be added, a recommendation the commission affirmed earlier this month.

"I guess a lot of people out there probably feel he's done more than any previous commander as far as putting us back on the map," said Jerry Mellott, president of Local 1429 of the National Federation of Federal Employees, which represents hundreds of blue collar depot workers.

"I'm not sure what brought him to be here, but you talk about the stars aligning," said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp.

"His leadership allowed us to survive BRAC as we did."

"He's just a great soldier who has helped us focus on supporting soldiers," said John Gray, the depot's deputy command. "He's a working man's leader."

"This has been, I believe, the best assignment I've ever had in my career," Guinn said.

Guinn listed the Patriot, Avenger, Hawk and TOW missiles systems, Force Provider portable military structures, vehicles for special forces, cranes, mobile kitchen trailers and generators as some of the equipment serviced and repaired by the depot, along with "humvees by the thousands."

According to the ceremony program, the workload at the depot has increased 200 percent in three years.

Guinn gave credit for the depot's performance to the work force, union leadership and executives such as his senior non-commissioned officer, Gray, and Sgt. Maj. Edward L. Brown Jr., whom he called "the heart and soul of this command."

"It's been a bittersweet day ... It'll be the last time I put on BDUs," he said of his camouflage uniform. Guinn, who is retiring to Idaho, said he will work part time as a consultant to the Army.

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