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Richardson hands over PTA command to Niles


Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Contributing Editor

Lt. Col. Warline S. Richardson handed command of Pohakuloa Training Area over to Lt. Col. Rolland C. “Chris” Niles on Thursday, June 24.

After a hula by the Kunishige family and a selection by drum-and-bagpipe trio Lobo Del Mar, Richardson handed over the garrison flag to Niles, officially marking the change of command and leadership of the U.S. Army’s Big Island training complex.

In an emotional speech, Richardson thanked the families, communities, employees, troops for embracing her during her three-year command.

She praised the members of the cultural advisory council for teaching her the traditions and history of Hawaii and the meaning of aloha.

Richardson joked about her tears.

“I was crying because I don’t know how to hula,” she said following the Kunishige family performance.

Richardson urged the PTA staff to maintain their passion and “can do” attitude in meeting the needs of the soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen who train at PTA by providing the services and support to ensure the safety, readiness and welfare of those training at PTA.

“Never lose sight of the fact and that our military is living and deploying repeatedly into combat in the longest sustained conflict in our nation’s history. Our nation has asked them to sacrifice much over the last eight years. We must provide them with the highest quality training opportunities, service and support with the limited resources we have,” she said.

Col. Douglas Mulbury said Richardson had shown outstanding leadership of the best and most realistic Army training facility in the world. He also credited Richardson with modernizing PTA and strengthening the Army’s relationships with Big Island communities and Native Hawaiian groups.

“She has been the driving force,” Mulbury said.

A native of North Carolina, Richardson and her dog Starsky are moving to San Antonio, Texas, where she will step into her new role as Missile Officer, Headquarters, U.S. Army North (Homeland Defense) Fort Sam Houston.

Lt. Col. Rolland ‘Chris’ Niles

Niles, with his wife Shawna and children Emily, Anna and Matthew, now will oversee the 134,000-acre training area that plays host each year to more than 18,000 troops from every branch of the armed forces.

The Illinois native has nearly 20 years of experience in the Army, but is a newcomer to Hawaii.

Previously, Niles has served in Korea and numerous mainland stations. He also has served two tours in Iraq, most recently as the deputy commanding officer of the 17th Fires Brigade in Basrah.

Niles is a graduate of the Field Artillery Officer Basic and Advanced courses,the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He also earned the Parachutist Badge and Air Assault Badge.

He earned a bachelor of arts degree in information management at Western Illinois University and a masters of arts degree in public administration at Western Kentucky University.

His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal (one oak leaf cluster), Meritorious Service Medal (two oak leaf clusters), Army Commendation Medal (four oak leaf clusters), Army Achievement Medal (one oak leaf cluster), Joint Meritorious Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Iraqi Campagin Medial, Global War on Terror Medal, and the NATO Medal.

Lt. Col Warline Richardson

Richardson took command of PTA July 12, 2007.

She established the Native Hawaiian Cultural Advisory Council, composed of leading cultural practitioners; business, civic and community leaders, in an effort to help the Army better understand cultural issues important to Native Hawaiians.

Under her leadership, the garrison has received numerous accolades for initiatives in taking care of the natural and cultural resources. Several of these efforts have served as standards for the Army at large.

During her tenure, Richardson oversaw the construction of 26 miles of fire buffers to protect threatened and endangered species, as well as 31 miles of fencing to protect native, threatened and endangered plants from grazing damage by feral sheep, pigs and goats.

The garrison has also been recognized by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for outstanding environmental programs.

“When I came into command here, my primary goal was to do everything I could to improve the quality of training for our soldiers,” she said. “I’ve been on the other side of the equation. I understand what it’s like to be deployed, and have soldiers in need of additional training.”

Richardson was commissioned into the regular Army as a Distinguished Military Graduate from Elizabeth City State University where she received her commission as an air defense artillery officer in 1990 with a bachelor of science in forensic psychology. She also holds a master’s degree in human resource management from Webster University, St. Louis.

She began her active army career as a fire breathing Dragon assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corp as a High Altitude Weapons Kill (HAWK) platoon leader of the 2nd Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Regiment, Fort Bragg, N.C. She spent the next three years serving as Assault Platoon leader while deployed to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Upon completion of the Air Defense Officers Advance course, Richardson served as the Battery Commander for the 4th Battalion, 3rd Air defense Artillery Unit Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas, where she was deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Vigilance.

Prior to her PTA assignment, Richardson served as a special assistant to the Chief of Staff of the Army at the Pentagon.

— Find out more:
www.garrison.hawaii.army.mil/s…

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