News: 50th Sig. Bn. farewells commander, welcomes a new
By Spc. Christopher Helmig
50th Signal Battalion
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Accompanied by the tools of the signal Soldier’s trade and the music of the 82nd Airborne Division Band, the Soldiers of the 50th Signal Battalion watched as outgoing battalion commander Lt. Col. Christopher O’Connor relinquished command to Lt. Col. William McDowell in a change of command ceremony held here on the morning of March 28.
With the temperamental North Carolina weather giving a moment of respite from the cold and rain, O’Connor passed the battalion colors, and the responsibility for the unit, to McDowell, who accepted the charge.
McDowell welcomed the challenge to uphold the reputation of a unit that provides direct communication support for many units on Fort Bragg, including the XVIII Airborne Corps and 82nd Abn. Div.
The ceremony was marked by the use of the semaphore flag signaling system in order to relay silent commands to those on the field. In use since the French Revolution in 1792, the semaphore has been a time honored symbol of the Signal Corps since 1868. The semaphore signals were conducted by Sgt. Mark Hammers Alpha Company, and Sgt. 1st Class Tony Linker, of Charlie Company.
During the ceremony, Col. Robert L. Edmonson II, brigade commander of the 35th Signal Brigade, recognized the exceptional leadership O’Connor provided during his two years as battalion commander and praised him for delivering outstanding results during his command.
“Faced with shrinking budgets, proposed troop cuts, and realigned priorities, the 50th Sig. Bn. remained, all the while, prepared to deploy anywhere,” said Edmonson.
“The Army got it right. I can think of no better officer than you to assume command of the 50th Signal Battalion. Trust in your experiences, judgment and temperament,” Edmonson said to McDowell during the ceremony.
Taking his turn addressing the Soldiers and guests, O’Connor expressed his pride for the battalion, and thanked the families of the Soldiers for supporting them during a time of economic uncertainty and government shutdowns.
“I’m really going to miss this. I’m going to miss coming into work every morning energized by the motivation of the communicators standing before you”, expressed O’Connor, reminiscing about the times he had spent getting to know the Soldiers who were a part of what he called the “5-0 family”. With a promise that “so long as the Army needs communications, the 5-0 will be there,” O’Connor signed off for the last time as battalion commander.
After stepping to the podium, McDowell commended O’Connor for handing over an outstanding unit, and remembered when he stood in the very spot and took command of Delta Company, 51st Sig. Bn., less than two months after Sept. 11, 2001.
“To the Soldiers of the 50th Sig. Bn., you look great out there today. I look forward to the challenges in the coming months and continuing to build on the excellent reputation that you have worked so hard to build and maintain,” McDowell said to the crowd.
McDowell first set foot on Fort Bragg soil upon his completion of the Infantry Officer Basic Course. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, where he served as a rifle platoon leader. After transitioning to the Signal Corps in 1998, McDowell got his first taste the 35th Sig. Brig., serving as platoon leader and company executive officer in Delta Company, 327th Sig. Bn. He comes to the unit after being assigned to the Joint Communications Support Element at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., as director of operations.
A unit whose history dates back to the early 1900s, the 50th Sig. Bn. has played an important role in several major military operations in the past century. Beginning as Company H, a telegraph company during the Philippine insurrection, the battalion continues to provide exceptional communications ranging from line-of-sight antenna transmission to satellite communications and everything in between. Most recently, the battalion deployed to Iraq and Kuwait in support of Operation New Dawn.
With one more chapter in the long history finished, another can begin. The 50th Sig. Bn. Soldiers, led by McDowell, will continue with a goal to achieve new successes and set the standard for years to come.