LIMA — Tradition returned to the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center on Thursday, as incoming commander Lt. Col. George Kloppenburg formally assumed his new role.
Outgoing commander Mary Jo Coffey, a deputy director at the JSMC who served as interim commander, ceremonially passed her duties along to Kloppenburg on Thursday with the passing of the colors, an exchange symbolizing the transfer of responsibility between the two commanders.
“Taking command within the Army is a milestone that folks aspire to,” Kloppenburg said. “It’s part of our career path in the military. I’m humbled and honored to be given the opportunity to come here and take command of this plant and join this family here at the Lima tank plant.”
Kloppenburg succeeds Lt. Col. Travis Adkins, who retired from the military on June 20 after serving three years as commander of the JSMC.
The JSMC is a military-owned and guarded facility but operated privately by General Dynamics Land Systems.
Kloppenburg, who most recently served as an executive officer in the Pentagon’s procurement division, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, in 2002. He deployed on Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005 and 2008, followed by two more deployments with Operation Enduring Freedom in 2012 and 2017.
Kloppenburg is no stranger to tanks, having worked as a tank platoon leader in the U.S. Army with the 1st Battalion – 72nd Armor Regiment in Camp Casey, South Korea.
The incoming commander has been recognized with dozens of awards and decorations throughout his service, including the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal.
Kloppenburg has been preparing for his transition for several weeks now, having met with Adkins in recent weeks and meeting with Coffey on Thursday to discuss plant operations and learn about initiatives already underway.
“I’m sure we’ll be furthering those efforts and learn about the job here,” said Kloppenburg, citing Adkins’s energy efficiency initiative as one example. Kloppenburg expects to put forward his own initiatives too.
Kloppenburg’s new role comes as things are looking up for the JSMC, which several years ago was producing a single tank per month as federal funding dried up. That’s changed as the tank plant is hiring, production is up and more contracts appear on the horizon.
But for now, Kloppenburg says he’s focused on getting to know the people who make the JSMC function.
“It’s all about the people here, whether it’s the folks inside this headquarters building or whether it’s the folks out there at 147 out on the line doing the good job of putting these tanks and Strykers together,” he said. “That’s what I’m focused on is to get to know these folks.”
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.