New commander takes post at Tobyhanna Army Depot

By JON O'CONNELL | The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa. | Published: June 18, 2019

COOLBAUGH TOWNSHIP, Pa. (Tribune News Service) — Col. John W. McDonald knows he has big shoes to fill.

The new commander at Tobyhanna Army Depot said as much during a change of command ceremony Monday at the military installation that designs, builds and refurbishes military equipment and technology.

Hundreds of the depot’s 4,000 employees filled the streets inside the sprawling compound for the 40-minute ceremony.

“I’m not sure if you came to watch me take command or watch him leave,” McDonald said of his predecessor.

During his two-year post, outgoing Col. Nathan M. Swartz grew the workload by 35%, added more than 400 new employees and spent $48 million to modernize facilities. Under his command, Tobyhanna workers dramatically streamlined processes.

For example overhaul work on a Satellite Transportable Terminal, a large mobile communication satellite, used to take 162 days. Last year, the depot rebuilt only 30 of them.

“This year, we’ll do 158, and we’re getting them out at 42 days on average from the time it comes to the depot to the time it’s leaving,” Swartz said.

The outgoing commander, who is taking a position in the Joint Staff Operations Directorate at the Pentagon, spoke of the civilian workforce he had strived to know personally.

“The real reason we’re struggling with leaving is the people,” he said. “And that’s all the people you see standing in the back, not under tents … they’re going to make it tough for us to leave,” he said.

McDonald is the depot’s 33rd commander.

The colonel, who joined the Army in 1991 as a parachute rigger with the 82nd Airborne Division, most recently worked in the Pentagon as a deputy in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G-4. The office oversees logistics policies for the Army.

He deployed more than once in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

He has a Master of Science degree in logistics management from Florida Institute of Technology. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from East Carolina University.

He also earned a Master of Science degree in resource strategy from the Eisenhower School for National Resource Strategy.

“It’s an awesome responsibility, one I don’t take lightly,” he said of his new post.

He plans to increase productivity by more than 50% and hire more people to do the work.

“I just want to pick up where Col. Swartz left off,” he said.

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