The Custer's Last Stand

(For a larger and clearer image, click on the pictures individually.)

Wednesday was a crisp, sunny, winter morning. It was a morning that has been scheduled and cancelled several times, a fact that has been the root of many jokes and speeches in past months. On this very special morning, Fort Huachuca finally bid farewell to a Command Team like no other, Major General John Custer and his wonderful wife Audrey.
I first met Audrey Custer at a spouses coffee hosted at her home just a few short weeks after I arrived at Fort Huachuca, 2009. Knowing I was one of the most junior spouses on the block I made certain to be on time. Knowing I was one of the most junior spouses, I was nervous. I was the first one to arrive... But as Audrey gracefully fluttered around the house with final preparations, her easy nature instantly set me at ease. She was relaxed. She was kind. She was and always has been, in one word- LOVELY. How a woman with a lifetime of experiences under her belt makes everyone in her presence feel an equal, I can only hope to learn and portray myself some day. Words cannot express the impact this woman, this couple, has made on our post. It has been an honor to watch them command, to applaud their success, and to enjoy their company as neighbors and friends.

I set out on Wednesday with camera in hand, not to capture the cliche Change Of Command images that twenty other photographers on the field would certainly cover, but to record the essence of the day: Colors waving beautifully in the wind that whips down Huachuca Canyon, the 36th Army Band drumming out a toe tapping march, the smell of fresh red roses honoring a spouse's hard work and sacrifice, yellow roses as bright and cheerful as the sunshine welcoming Brigadier General Potter's wife into her new role. While most of the cameras were focused around the podium I had the delight of wandering the parade field, my favorite place to be, seeing the sequence of events from the vantage point most are not permitted. It is there that General Custer and General Potter begin "trooping the line" together; why exactly was that final contingent situated 15 feet behind the rest of the formation? Nearly skewering the command party walking by? It will certainly remain a distinct memory from the ceremony, but that is no longer the concern of General Custer as he relinquishes command, retires from the Army, and embarks on a new path, a civilian path, with bride Audrey still steadfast by his side, and a major retirement home renovation on the horizon. The formation on Brown Parade Field, situated in front of historic Quarters 1, the Pershing House, which the Custer's had the privilege to call home during their command at Fort Huachuca, was an amazing send off, and it was a honor to witness every smile and salute!