Yakima Training Center welcomes new commander with ceremony
By DONALD W. MEYERS | Yakima Herald-Republic, Wash. | Published: July 11, 2018
SELAH, Wash. (Tribune News Service) — With the passing of a flag, the Yakima Training Center has a new commander.
Lt. Col. Roger Gavriluk was formally installed as the training center’s commanding officer during a change of command ceremony Tuesday on the base’s parade ground.
It was not the first time that Gavriluk had met his predecessor. Gavriluk and Lt. Col. Jarret Mathews first met as Special Forces officers while serving in Afghanistan several years ago.
When Gavriluk learned he would be assuming command of the training center northeast of Selah, he also learned that Mathews was the commander he was relieving.
“I was real excited,” Gavriluk said. He initially decided not to contact Mathews right away, but Mathews dropped him a line congratulating him on his new assignment and offering to work on the transition.
A satellite installation of Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, the base has provided training for U.S. troops since World War II. Describing it as the “best-kept secret in the U.S. Army,” Mathews said the center is continuing its mission of training front-line troops for conflicts around the world.
In addition to the rolling hills of the 327,231-acre installation, the base also offers urban-combat training simulation for all branches of the U.S. military as well as forces from Canada and Japan.
Commanders rotate through the base about every two years. The command formally changes with a brief military ceremony filled with symbolism.
During the ceremony, Command Sgt. Maj. Paul DeSanto, the center’s ranking noncommissioned officer, passed the base’s flag to Mathews, who in turn handed it to Col. William D. Percival, deputy commander of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, as a sign he was turning over command of the base.
Percival then passed the flag to the new commander, who — in his first official act — passed it back to DeSanto.
Mathews’ arrival at the training center was not under the best of circumstances, Percival said.
“When (Mathews) assumed command, it was a literal trial by fire,” Percival said, recalling the brush fire that started on the base and jumped State Route 24, eventually burning 176,600 acres.
Mathews, Percival said, worked to develop and improve the base’s plans for reducing wildfire risk and responding when fires break out.
Mathews also worked on upgrading the base’s airfield, as well as improving security with the installation of remote-controlled road barricades.
“The progress at YTC is not always fast, but it is steady,” Mathews said.
In addition to building on Mathews’ work with military matters, Gavriluk said he would also continue the positive relationship the base has with the Selah School District and the city of Selah, as well as with the Yakama Nation and Wanapum tribe.
Mathews is transferring to Tampa, Fla., where he will be with the military’s Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East.
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