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    Former CECOM, APG Commander looks back, Part I of III

    APG Commander briefs Harford Council

    Photo By Philip Molter | U.S. Army Communications-Electronics COmmand Commanding General and APG Senior...... read more read more



    Story by Philip Molter 

    U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command

    Note: This is the first of three articles in which the former U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command CG and APG Senior Commander, Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo, looks back on his tenure as he transitions to his new role as the U.S. Army Deputy Inspector General.

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. —The APG News recently sat down with Maj. Gen. Mitchell Kilgo to discuss his tenure as the 16th commander of CECOM and senior commander of APG. His tour of duty at APG officially ended on Aug. 6 when he relinquished command to Maj. Gen. Robert Edmonson II.

    When you first learned of your assignment as CECOM commander what were your thoughts regarding the position?

    My initial thought was that I was pretty excited about the position. For the previous five years I was the G-6 at FORSCOM [U.S. Army Forces Command] and the J-6 at CENTCOM [U.S. Central Command] so I was excited to have the opportunity to command as a flag officer. It was a good vibe, good feeling.

    So that’s part one. Part two was that several previous commanders at CECOM have been or are mentors of mine. They talked about CECOM a lot and how different CECOM was from traditional signal commands, so I was very interested in that and I was excited to step outside the traditional "signal box" and begin to learn about this place. My cousin was a retired ordnance officer so he had been stationed here back in the ‘90s and he talked about how he liked the area. So I was excited to come to this area, being from Virginia, it was also a way to be close to family.

    Your assignment also stated you would be the APG senior commander, what were your thoughts taking on that role as well?

    In all honesty, initially I thought I don’t want that, I just want to focus on the organization. But then I thought, ok, that comes with the territory, it comes with the job, I will embrace that role. But that was my initial thought. Once I got here and began to interface with the community one of the things I did here was a salute to Veterans in Cecil County, I believe it was the 3rd of July in 2019. That experience, meeting with the county executives and their folks, but also engaging with the people [including] a couple of Gold Star Moms on that trip made me feel a little bit different about the role of a senior commander. I thought wow, here is another good opportunity to engage with folks that I normally never would. It made me kind of step outside of that shell of just being in a uniform and being a military person.

    One of the things retired Gen. [Mark] Milley talked a lot about in my time when I was at FORSCOM as a G-6 and he was a FORSCOM commander, before he became the CSA [Chief of Staff of the Army], there is a growing disconnect between our communities and the military. Over time, that disconnect has grown. So going to that first event and doing more community things, I saw the value in this, being APG senior commander, is actually a pretty good thing and these are some good people as well. They are very welcoming and so it was a good experience.

    So the second impression was that I am glad that I have these dual hats that allow me to get engrossed, get involved. It’s funny because I am kind of in the middle but I was really an introvert growing up. Military is my business. I am a technically-oriented person and it kind of pushed me out of my comfort zone to do some of the things that I hadn’t had to do before. It was a great experience.

    Then of course, everything changed in March 2020 as we began to realize that COVID-19 was circulating in the U.S. and states, including Maryland, began locking down. What were your initial directions and thoughts regarding COVID-19 and how has that evolved over time, as we’ve moved almost back to ‘normal’ and bringing the workforce back?

    That was an eerie time. Really my first thought was, I reflected back to 9/11 and the day after. That feeling kind of came back to me. And I thought, let’s practice a little patience here. I kind of wanted to gather myself so I could think clearly about what this was because at first there wasn’t a lot of information. Then of course the focus was how we can protect this community, keep the people of APG safe.

    If you read some emails that I got, the comments that were being made and what was being presented in the news media —people were very afraid. So I thought, we have to keep our people safe. We can’t spook them. As a leader, this had to be a calm and deliberate approach, we had to communicate with people and we needed to help people understand that we were going to make some decisions.

    So the approach was, let’s take a step back and understand where we are. Then it was ok, we have been in crisis before. We haven’t been through something like this before but as a military we know how to handle a crisis.

    Then we pulled the leaders together and we tackled this pandemic just like we would any other military operation. We put the muscle memory in place. So for the key leaders of the organizations that was a familiar thing for them. That eliminated some of that hesitance, if you will. Then at that point it was all about getting the information to flow across the board to everyone. We started the daily email blasts and that was something I really wanted to do. People have to know what we are doing, how much information I can provide for them.

    I was very concerned about the back and forth and the political aspect of what this thing was becoming. I was very concerned that people would get glued to the TV and take that as the gospel as opposed to truly understanding. So I wanted to give people the same perspective of what I was looking at. So I wanted to communicate, to have a dialogue. The STRATCOM [Strategic Communications] team helped a lot as well as the Garrison team, Kirk [Kirk U.S. Army Health Clinic] team, bringing the right information together. The thing that was critical to me was I needed to establish some level of trust between me as a senior commander here and the team of folks that were here. So those daily messages came directly from me.

    I wanted to send it directly from my email because I wanted to get that direct feedback. Most people did not know they were talking directly back at me until I responded. So I got the good, the bad, the ugly but I think this gave people a sense of peace and that allowed me to really understand what was on people’s minds and what they were afraid of and that gave us the opportunity to target those things so that we could build that trust. That was very important for us.

    What do you consider your most important functions as the APG senior commander, before and after COVID?

    I don’t know if it changed. Before COVID it was still about taking care of the community. Providing for the needs of the people who work at APG. Understanding the missions that are performed here deliver combat effectiveness to the Army every day. Most people that run these halls hear me say that APG is a unicorn. It is a unicorn for the Army and a unicorn for DOD. There is not another installation or proving ground like this one that pulls all of these disciplines together. What we do here has an immediate impact on the Army. So part of my job is focusing on ensuring that we can execute the mission and the way we can do that is by providing for the people and making sure that they are safe.

    People work on APG but they live outside the gate so it was about making that bridge shorter between how we view things and how the community thought about us. As COVID kicked off and got going I really had to think through focusing on looking internal to the gates. We had to ensure we could protect our ability to execute our missions. I was really concerned about our discipline outside the gates, as opposed to discipline inside the gates. I can control the discipline inside the gates by guidelines and policies and enforcing them. External to the gates I had zero control over that but this is where our people live and play. So my focus became ensuring we could execute our mission by offering services on post. We took actions like opening up the Commissary for anybody who lived here regardless of if they were a retiree or active duty. So we could keep them here inside the gates.

    I was also engaged with the county executives and the community leaders to explain to them about what we were doing and get a better understanding of what they were seeing outside of the gates. So that we didn’t lose that connective tissue that we had established in my first seven to eight months that previous APG senior commanders retired Lt. Gen. Robert Ferrell and retired Maj. Gen. Randy Taylor have built on before. That gave us situational awareness talking to Barry Glassman [Harford County executive] and Alan McCarthy [former Cecil County executive]. And with Adelphi being part of this community we had to understand what was going on in Prince George’s County and Baltimore County.

    I would say holistically, there was a slight shift in creating an ‘outside the gate’— ‘inside the gate’ mentality and again, keeping the bridge short between the two. Understanding that now we are in two different environments. The folks coming to work every day like in the ATC [Aberdeen Test Command], garrison, Kirk Clinic and MRICD [U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense], they had to know they were coming to a safe environment. So what we were really asking them to do was, when you leave work to stay very disciplined.

    We established a clean team to get after areas anytime we had a suspected positive case. We needed people to trust that when you come to the workplace here, follow the guidelines, you are going to be safe. And we asked them to keep that discipline when you are off post to protect your teammates when you come back.



    Date Taken: 08.16.2021
    Date Posted: 08.19.2021 09:57
    Story ID: 403182

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