New Fort Hamilton commander has close ties to Brooklyn

Col. Joseph D. Davidson, the new commanding officer of the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton, officially assumed his new post at the fort Wednesday morning during a ceremony filled with military tradition.

The moment during the ceremony that signified the change-of-command came when Davidson, who served in the Iraq War, was handed the fort’s flag by Thomas Schoenbeck, central regional director of the U.S. Army’s Installation Management Command. The interaction occurred on a bluff overlooking the harbor with the flags of all 50 states waving in the background in a gentle breeze.

Fort Hamilton, located in Bay Ridge, is the only active military base in New York City. The fort was built in 1825.

Davidson succeeds Col. Eluyn Gines, the fort’s commander for the past three years. Gines is moving on to a new post as executive officer for the adjutant general corps at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

The fort’s outgoing commander, Col. Eluyn Gines (left) welcomes his successor, Col. Joseph D. Davidson.

Davidson comes to Fort Hamilton fresh from his previous post as the army’s chief of staff for the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization in Washington, D.C. Fort Hamilton marks his first time as a garrison commander.

But Davidson is no stranger to Brooklyn. In his first address as the fort’s commander, he took pride in mentioning to the audience of borough dignitaries that his parents “started their married life in Brooklyn,” that his eldest sister was born here, and that “my father-in-law grew up in Bay Ridge.”

Davidson, who grew up in Congers, New York, also said that as a young soldier 25 years ago, he took his army entrance physical at Fort Hamilton. He called his return to the fort “the strange of strange loops.”

The new commander told the audience that he is looking forward to re-connecting with Brooklyn and is eager to serve not just the fort, but Bay Ridge and the larger Brooklyn community. “I look forward to the challenges that lay ahead,” he said.

The U.S. Army Color Guard stands at attention during the National Anthem.

Davison also thanked his wife, Erin Davidson, an intellectual property lawyer and a partner in the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani in New York. He called her his “best friend.”

In his farewell address, Gines said that he enjoyed his time at Fort Hamilton. “Serving as garrison commander has been the greatest honor we have ever received.”

During Gines’s tenure, the fort helped New York City with recovery efforts during and after Hurricane Sandy. Gines also supervised plans for the construction of a child development center at the fort.

The ceremony also marked the beginning of Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Fauntleroy’s tenure at the fort. A command sergeant major is the highest ranking non-commissioned officer at a military base. He succeeds Command Sgt. Major Hector Prince.

Maj. Gen Jeffrey Buchanan, of the U.S. Army’s Military District in Washington, D.C., told Davidson and Fauntleroy, “you’re going to love being a part of this incredible team.” He advised them to “enjoy it, have fun and continue to carry on the fight.”

Buchanan said that while the ceremony to install a new fort commander is a simple one, it is also “a time-honored tradition.”

Among those on hand for the ceremony were New York State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack and his wife Dilia Schack; state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn) ; Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Bensonhurst) ; Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny (D-Bay Ridge-Coney Island) ; Police Chief Owen Monaghan, commander of patrol Borough Brooklyn South; and Capt. Raymond Festino, commanding officer of the 68th Precinct in Bay Ridge.

Numerous military veterans, as well as active duty personnel, attended the ceremony.

Col. Joseph D. Davidson (right) meets Bill Guarinello, chairman of the Fort Hamilton Citizens Action Committee, after the ceremony.