CONCORD, Mass. – In a Change of Command ceremony today at historic Faneuil Hall in Boston, Mass., District Commander Col. Tom Feir passed the command flag, signifying change of command authority of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in New England, to new District Commander Col. Charles P. Samaris. Presiding over the ceremony was Brig. Gen. Peter A. DeLuca, Commander and Division Engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Atlantic Division.
The custom of acknowledging a change in command officers of a military unit is a formal ceremony and dates back to pre-Roman times. The ceremony emphasizes the continuity of leadership and unit identity, despite changes in individual authority, and symbolizes the transfer of command responsibility from one individual to another. This transfer is physically represented by passing the Command Flag, the tangible symbol of the unit, from the outgoing commander to the next senior commander to the new commander.
A native of Methuen, Mass., Col. Samaris is a graduate of the University of Miami (Fla.), with a bachelor’s degree in architecture. He holds a master’s degree in foundations of education (health promotion programs) from Troy State University and a master’s degree in military operational arts and sciences from Air University.
Some challenges the new commander will face in New England include permit and regulatory activities, navigation improvements, environmental restoration projects, clean up at formerly used defense sites, dredging needs of ports and harbors in New England and many other issues.
In 1989, Col. Samaris was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After completing the Engineer Officer Basic Course in Fort Belvoir, Va., in March 1990, he was assigned to Company A, 20th Engineer Battalion (Corps Combat) where he served as Sapper Platoon Leader and Company Executive Officer, to include six months of service in the Persian Gulf during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm. After graduating from the Armor Officer Advanced Course, Col. Samaris was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division (Mechanized), Republic of Korea, where he served as staff officer in Operations, and later as commander of Company B, 44th Engineer Battalion.
He has served at the U.S. Army National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga., and as Commander of the 35th Engineer Battalion at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
He also served in Operation Desert Spring and Operation Iraqi Freedom and at the Gulf Region Division of
the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq. His most recent assignment was serving as the Senior Service College Fellow in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Security Studies Program.
As Commander since June 27, 2008, Col. Feir had many noteworthy accomplishments while managing Corps responsibilities in the six-state New England region, overseeing civil works activities as well as engineering, construction and real estate work for Army, Air Force and other Department of Defense activities. Accomplishments include: dredging projects; environmental restoration projects; progress on several EPA Superfund projects including the New Bedford Harbor Superfund Project; flood damage reduction projects that prevented millions in flood damages in New England; and support to military projects at Massachusetts Military Reservation, Hanscom Air Force Base, U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center, and Westover Air Reserve Base. Col. Feir managed an annual program of $261 million in fiscal year 2010. He plans to retire from the military after 27 years of service.
The Corps’ role in New England dates back to the country’s founding. An engineer force first proved its value in a military operation on American soil in New England in June 1775 when Col. Richard Gridley, at the direction of Gen. George Washington, designed and built fortifications for the Battle of Bunker Hill. Since then, Army Engineers have been a sustaining force in the field and have accomplished peacetime civil works missions that have helped develop a nation.
Structured as a major Army command, the Corps’ primary mission is to support Overseas Contingency Operations, serve U.S. military units worldwide with first-rate troop facilities, with equipment and engineering know-how for the Soldier in the field, and as an implementing agent of national water resource policy. The Corps in New England operated as a Division until April 1997 when it became a District under North Atlantic Division, with headquarters in New York, N.Y. The six-state New England region serviced by the New England District covers 66,000 square miles with a population of 14 million people.
The District civil works program is principally concerned with flood risk management and navigation. Environmental engineering support is a growing part of the Corps’ workload, and a priority is given to disaster recovery operations. Current Corps water resource programs in the region deal primarily with flood damage reduction, navigation, water supply, operation and maintenance of completed projects, including the Cape Cod Canal, and the regulation of activities affecting U.S. waters and wetlands. Headquartered in Concord, Mass., the District is involved in a myriad of environmental restoration programs, hurricane and shoreline protection, and studies concerning water supply and quality, dredge material disposal, and comprehensive studies of New England river basins. It accomplishes a large and diverse program of work for other federal agencies, primarily in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program.
In accomplishing its basic missions, the District contributes to the region’s well-being in such areas as harbor improvement and maintenance, flood risk management, recreation, water quality, and conservation and natural resources. For more information (and photos) about the Corps’ New England District and new District Commander Col. Charles P. Samaris check the Corps website at http://www.nae.usace.army.mil.