Lt. Col. Thomas Chapeau’s change of command is scheduled for Tuesday morning
HCB commander set to leave Fort Meade
All commands come to an end and such is the case for Lt. Col. Thomas D. Chapeau.
For just a little over two years, Chapeau has lead the Headquarters Company Battalion at Fort Meade.
His change-of-command ceremony is set for Tuesday at the Post Theater with all of the mask-wearing and social distancing standards in place, thanks to the coronavirus.
Chapeau’s command at Fort Meade was a unique experience.
He is an artilleryman by trade and in a traditional artillery battalion, Chapeau would command over 500 troops.
As the Headquarters Company commander, he commands just over 100 troops. That can be a challenge.
“Our entire mission on Fort Meade is to support the garrison in all of its functions and roles for the community,” Chapeau said. “In order to do that, with literally one-fifth of the normal battalion population, is quite a challenge.
“So I’ve coined a phrase that we are the ‘mini but mighty battalion’ because it’s amazing on any given day what we do for the garrison with the limited amount of personnel and resources that we have, as compared to a traditional battalion.”
Leading a command that is a little different than normal was a blessing in disguise for Chapeau, giving him opportunities he would have never had in a traditional battalion.
“Having the opportunity to go speak on the garrison commander’s behalf with the community and to be able to reiterate what his goals and objectives are — what his vision is with our relationship with the community — was a phenomenal opportunity,” he said. “[These were] tremendous opportunities that I wouldn’t have gotten in a traditional battalion or any other battalion.”
With just days left at Fort Meade, Chapeau reflected on the work his battalion has accomplished throughout the years.
“On any given day, the headquarters battalion has the mission for the garrison to provide military funeral honors to the five state region,” he said. “That’s probably one of our larger aspects of what we do.
“On average, we do between 40 and 50 funerals a month for the community for veterans, for retirees and deceased service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
The Headquarters Company Battalion also has the mission of supporting the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, the Religious Support Office, and the military police and working dogs.
Chapeau himself served as the delegate for the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board and the chair for Fort Meade’s Juvenile Misconduct Committee.
One of the biggest missions that fell under his purview came following the housing crisis.
“I was part of the Housing Focus Group for the garrison, meeting on a monthly basis with the residents in order to provide transparency and improve the relationship between the residents, the garrison and Corvias, our privatized housing partner,” Chapeau said.
The Housing Focus Groups have evolved into the Community Ambassador Program, which is made up of resident volunteers to serve as a liaison between the garrison and the residents.
The Community Ambassadors will also help new Fort Meade families get acquainted with the installation.
“It’s welcoming everyone to the installation and helping them get through those first few months of trying to figure out what they need to do in terms of their neighborhood,” Chapeau said.
Chapeau credits the support from the residents for making the Housing Focus Groups and Community Ambassador Program a success.
While serving as a battalion commander is hard work, there are a lot of fun opportunities that come along with it such as throwing out a first pitch during Fort Meade Night with the Bowie Baysox.
“I hadn’t been on board very long — I think I was here maybe a couple of months,” Chapeau recalled. “I was invited out to the Bowie Baysox game and they had asked if we could come out and do a working dog demonstration and, on behalf of the garrison, throw out the first pitch. It was a great experience and I will never forget it.
“It was one of those defining moments as a brand new battalion commander to see the depth and breadth of what we can influence at the garrison level.”
Chapeau’s next stop will be just down the road at Fort McNair, which keeps him in the Military District of Washington-National Capital Region family, where he will be a part of the Inauguration Task Force for the 2020 presidential election.
“I would like to say ‘thank you’ to our community partners, to the residents and to the garrison staff for supporting me over the last two years,” Chapeau said.
“It has been a tremendous ride for me personally, and I really just want to say ‘thank you’ to all of those who have helped make my command a success.”
Editor’s note: View Lt. Col. Thomas D. Chapeau’s change-of-command ceremony live on the Fort Meade Facebook page on Tuesday at 10 a.m.