Command and Control – A Fort Knox Experience

Mary Jean Yon,

Controlled Running Map. That’s what the person at the front desk handed us when we checked into our lodging at Fort Knox. I knew right away this was going to be an interesting trip. We had traveled to Kentucky to share in the celebration as our good friend, Colonel Fred Johnson, assumed command of the Accessions Support Brigade at Fort Knox.

The legend on the map explained that runners and joggers are required to wear a reflective belt/vest while running on the controlled routes on Fort Knox. The rule applied to soldiers and civilians alike. I stole a furtive glance at David and our traveling companions, Gary and Peg Griffin. I saw rebellion starting to grow.

Later that evening we saw Fred and of course running was the first discussion topic that came up. Fred deftly steered away from the reflective belt question and instead focused on how crazy it is that some of the best roads and hills on post are deemed off-limits to runners. Our little group could tell that Fort Knox was about to get an education. The rebellion of my traveling companions was fortified.

Next morning we went out for our first run of the trip, dressed as we would for any run back home. David sensed my discomfort and offered to turn back so that I could get a reflective belt from the front desk. I declined and sent the boys on their way while I ran and marveled at how many soldiers were out running, all wearing their Army t-shirts, matching shorts and reflective belts.

The Change of Command ceremony took place later that morning and was both moving and impressive. It appealed to me in so many ways. As a regulator by profession and the product of an Army family, I get this command and control thing. I even like it!

After the ceremony we toured the General George Patton Museum and then headed back to the Johnson family’s temporary quarters. Fred likes to point out that he considers both Gulf Winds and the Army as his family and that he has one foot firmly planted in each. Throughout the visit, there was a considerable amount of discussion of how Fred’s new mission is to help change how the American people view the Army and to attract more people to sign up. I smile as I think of the similarities when some track club members fret that people don’t understand Gulf Winds and want to pursue some outreach efforts to overcome that. I suppose I’m biased but I like both of Fred’s families and think more people share my positive views than not.

The next morning Fred offered to take Gary and David out to his favorite hills, lovingly referred to as Agony and Misery, for their last run before we headed home. You know, the hills on the route that bears the sign that reads, “Absolutely No Running!” It goes without saying that a bonus to the run would be if a Military Police happened to stop the group!

I ran on my own again and scouted out more of the post. I found myself thinking that a little structure and control is not a bad thing. I know Fred will do well in this new assignment. He will bring just the right mix of adventure and respect to the soldiers in his brigade and in the end their lives will be richer for having known him. I chuckled as I pondered how many of them will start or resume running in order to impress him.

As I was finishing my run I looked up to see Fred standing on the road in front of me, waiting for me to make the turn onto the road that will take me back to our lodging. He looked like all the other runners I saw that day with their Army t-shirts and matching shorts. A smile grows large across my face as I spot his reflective belt. He gets it too!