Now his family gets a turn.
“For the last 10 years, a lot of soldiers have had to put their families on the back burner … that’s a tough choice,” Sullivan said. “But now I’m going from here and be the best dad and best husband I can be.”
Sullivan, who has a wife and three children, relinquished his position as the 32nd commander of the depot to Col. Brent Bolander Thursday. Military personnel, depot workers and elected officials were present to witness the change of command ceremony.
Commissioned as an Ordnance Officer in 1988 after earning a degree in forensic science from Jacksonville State University, Sullivan traveled widely before coming back to Calhoun County to take the reins at the depot. Among other assignments, he commanded a unit in Korea, served as chief of logistics for the Special Operations Command and earned a master’s degree from the Air War College in Montgomery.
Much of Sullivan’s tenure at the depot was beset with unusual challenge as the depot faced decreasing workloads and layoffs due to draw-downs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In January, it fell upon Sullivan to announce that more than 562 short-term depot workers would lose their jobs once their contracts had expired later in the year.
“I haven’t slept well in the last 18 months,” Sullivan said. “It’s the people here that are the most important to me.”
However, new work from the National Guard, the Army Reserve, Saudi Arabia and Iraq has ensured that about 386 of the 562 workers will keep their jobs through at least March. About 6,000 people work at the depot in permanent positions for various jobs, including repairing military vehicles and weapons.
“It makes me feel like we did a great job at managing,” Sullivan said of the new depot workload. “I said when I took command two years ago that the depot has a very bright future and I’m saying the very same thing today.”
Sullivan’s plans now are to retire from the military after 27 years of service and move to Huntsville.
“And I’ll see if I can find the best way to support soldiers,” Sullivan said.
During the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Michael Terry said the depot was losing a strong leader.
“Declining workload is the most difficult task a depot commander will face,” Terry said. “But he was an advocate that worked tirelessly on your (workers) behalf. The depot remains well positioned to continue its core mission.”
Sullivan attributed the majority of the depot’s success to its employees.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better team of leaders and there couldn’t have been a better crew for this business,” Sullivan said.
Terry added, however, that Bolander was the right man to replace Sullivan.
“Bolander is a combat leader, so he knows how important the depot is,” Terry said.
Bolander’s last assignment was as senior logistics adviser and director of strategic operations for the deputy commander support operations in Afghanistan. He has received numerous awards, including the Bronze Star Medal. According to his official biography, he was commissioned as an Ordnance Officer upon graduation from the University of Nebraska in 1987 with bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He holds a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the National War College.
“I am committed to giving my all as we continue to move forward in the next chapter of the depot’s 71-year legacy,” Bolander said.
Bolander said he recently toured the depot while on leave and was impressed by everyone he met.
“I’ve just had first-class treatment,” Bolander said. “I’m humbled to be a part of this.”
Bolander said he expects to spend the next few weeks just learning more about the facility.
“My biggest challenge will be just getting my arms around this entire organization and its many moving parts,” Bolander said. “We’ll sink in, peel everything back and move it forward.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star