With the passing of the ceremonial flag symbolizing the official change of command, Col. Thomas D. Asbery assumed command of the Army Corps’ New York District from Col. David Caldwell June 8, 2017 at a ceremony held adjacent to the historic Castle Williams on Governors Island, New York City. Asbery brings many years of experience to New York District where he now leads an organization that employs a 500 workforce of military and civilian professionals who annually execute various programs and projects.
Caldwell commanded the New York District since June 2015. His follow on assignment is with the Combined Security Transition Command, Afghanistan. An award ceremony preceded the event where Caldwell received the Legion of Merit Medal and Silver De Fluery Medal for his exceptional service.
Asbery is no stranger to the Corps, he's served as the Transatlantic Division Operational Command Officer in Charge, Deputy Division Commander of the Pacific Ocean Division, and Commander of the Honolulu District.
The members of the change of command official party included Brig. Gen. William H. Graham, Commanding General of the Army Corps' North Atlantic Division; Col. Caldwell outgoing Commander; Col. Asbery, incoming Commander; and Mr. Joseph Seebode, Deputy District Engineer for Programs and Project Management.
Jodi McDonald, Deputy Chief of Operations Division narrated the ceremony as the U.S. Military Academy, West Point Band provided a military music performance, and the Fort Hamilton Color Guard provided the official colors. The invocation was delivered by Fort Hamilton Chaplain (Maj.) Donald Ehrke.
The passing of a unit’s colors is a symbolic act, through which the outgoing Commander relinquishes authority to his superior, who in turn passes the authority on to the incoming Commander. The ceremony goes back to the beginning of our nation’s history and provides for the orderly transfer of organizational responsibility.
The event began with Seebode passing the colors to Col. Caldwell, the outgoing Commander; Col. Caldwell then passed the colors to Brig. Gen. Graham. Brig. Gen. Graham passed the colors to Col. Asbery the incoming Commander, passing on the authority.
Brig. Gen. Graham praised the outgoing commander’s commitment and dedication and welcomed the incoming commander and his family. Graham thanked Caldwell for his success in overseeing many engineering and construction efforts during his tenure and advancing important studies and projects for the Corps in a significant manner. Graham enumerated Asbery's many contributions to the U.S. Army and Corps.
In the background on the water with the Manhattan skyline in view, New York District's flotilla of Corps vessels rendered honors with horn blasts and a display of the large national ensign and USACE flag flying from its masts, as a New York City Fire Department boat rendered a water cannon salute.
To welcome the Asbery family to the New York District, Lisa Assim of Contracting Division presented the incoming commander's wife with a bouquet of yellow roses. Lynn Bocamazo of Engineering Division presented a bouquet of red roses to Col. Caldwell’s spouse.
Caldwell and Asbery addressed the audience from the podium and delivered their remarks.
"I will forever be thankful for the opportunity I had to serve here; for serving with outstanding public servants internal and external to the district; for being able to participate in meaningful work that provides great value to the Nation; for the friends, co-workers and partners that I’ve been able to get to know and learn from; and overall for how blessed I’ve been these past two years," said Caldwell.
"I am truly honored and humbled to be standing here today and to have been given the great privilege of commanding such an outstanding organization. My wife and I are truly blessed and thrilled about this incredible opportunity. We look forward to joining the New York District and the North Atlantic Division family and serving the people of New York and New Jersey and surrounding communities," said Asbery.
Following the ceremony, distinguished visitors, employees, family and friends had the opportunity to bid farewell to Col. Caldwell, and to meet and welcome Col. Asbery and his family that included a harbor inspection conducted by New York District Operations.
New York District's area of responsibility encompasses more than 20 million people spread throughout 37 congressional districts. The District's civil works water resource development projects include 8 major river basins and Lake Champlain, Port of New York/New Jersey, 400 miles of coastline, planning & construction of environmental remediation projects, responding to military contingencies & civil emergencies, regulating impacts to wetlands & navigable waterways as well as providing real estate services support to nearly 400 recruiting stations & numerous installations.