By ANDREA WALES
U.S. Army Human Resources Command Public Affairs Office
The Joint Personal Effects Depot under the Adjutant General Directorate at the U.S. Army Human Resources Command on post held a change of responsibility ceremony at Dover Air Force Base, Del., Oct. 14.
During the passing of the guidon, the JPED enlisted leadership transferred from 1st Sgt. Alfred Venham, who was retiring from the Army after 30 years, to 1st Sgt. Alvin Wilson.
The JPED, which moved from Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to Dover last spring, has the responsibility of receiving the personal effects of killed, wounded or missing service members, including those from the Coast Guard, Department of Defense civilians and contractors, as well as embedded media. During this process, these belongings are photographed, inventoried and prepared so they can be returned to their owners or to their next of kin.
HRC originally stood up the JPED at Fort Myer, Va., immediately following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The JPED relocated to APG in March 2003.
Col. Tony Teolis Jr., director of the Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Center headquartered at Fort Knox, said a few words to honor the outgoing first sergeant.
Col. Teolis thanked 1st Sgt. Venham for his more than 30 years of service and thanked his Family for their dedication and service during the decade-long war. He used the Noncommissioned officer Creed to highlight 1st Sgt. Venham’s service, while noting that his true success was marked by finishing his career with his Family.
As 1st Sgt. Venham retired from the Army and his time with the JPED drew to a close, 1st Sgt. Wilson’s time with the unit was just beginning.
“First Sgt. Wilson comes to us at a very dynamic time in the history of the JPED,” depot commander Lt. Col. Kelly Kyburz said. “We are still in the midst of a comprehensive transition, which required us to change, relocate, and train over a hundred new personnel on evolving processes while maintaining dedicated support to our warfighters without interruption.”
The commander said she had no doubt that the new first sergeant would help the JPED achieve its leadership’s vision of a world-class organization in a state-of-the-art facility, with a “one team, one fight” mindset and a focus on optimizing the balance of speed and accuracy in processing personal effects with dignity, integrity and respect.
“You were specially selected for this position because you have proven yourself to be a caring and dedicated advocate for Families who have lost what they cherish most,” Lt. Col. Kyburz said.
The commander told of how inspired she was nine days after Sept. 11, 2001, when then President George Bush addressed the American people and a joint session of Congress in response to the terrorist attacks.
“That night, a few miles from the damaged Pentagon, the president had a message for our military: Be ready. In regard to our new mission, he said these words, ‘We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail,’” Lt. Col. Kyburz said. “First Sgt. Venham was ready, and I can honestly say that he has lived up to those words. His dedication and loyalty, his trusted friendship and heartfelt advice have far surpassed not only my highest expectations, but my wildest dreams.”
First Sgt. Venham set up a course of action for the move to Dover, compiled design requirements, worked with architects and engineers, furniture vendors and building contractors, the commander said.
“It wasn’t a (Base Realignment and Closure move), so there was very little momentum or interest in the project, “ she said, “But 1st Sgt. Venham was on a mission, and, after construction actually started in July 2008, other people started to take interest and ownership in the project. I truly believe that without this one man’s persistence, confidence, determination, trust, initiative, and vision, we would not be sitting in this building today.”
First Sgt. Venham was presented with gifts to honor his work with the JPED.
“Today we want to recognize and honor the Army’s newest retiring first sergeant—someone who has dedicated the past eight years to supporting Families of the fallen and our wounded service members through CMAOC; someone who has been touched by war in places like Central America and in the Middle East; one of the most selfless persons I know—1st Sgt. Alfred Venham,” JPED Executive Officer Maj. Darius Highsmith said. “Today, I have the privilege to honor you, your sacrifice and that of your Family, your dedication and commitment with this very special gift from the American people.”
Maj. Highsmith presented 1st Sgt. Venham with the Quilt of Valor made by the Delaware-based all volunteer organization that recognizes service members touched by war.
The quilt is “a symbol of the American spirit—quilted by hand by Americans across the country, fabric square by fabric square, and ultimately finished in the state of Delaware,” Maj. Highsmith said.
After the ceremony, the 65th Adjutant General of the Army, Col. Jason Evans, thanked 1st Sgt. Venham for his service and presented him with a TAG coin.
During his outgoing remarks, 1st Sgt. Venham said that, over the years, he has seen the JPED evolve from a small-element operation in a single building located at APG to an operation with more than 170 people in an $18 million, 59,000 square foot world-class, state-of-the-art facility at Dover. His years with JPED taught him a lot.
“I will always remember the three main ingredients of being a successful leader: skill, will and teamwork,” 1st Sgt. Venham said. “It is not what you say that makes you a great leader, but what you do … living each day according to those core values.”