By Eric Barrier/Newswriter
The university said goodbye to its former ROTC commander and welcomed its new one last week during a change-of-command ceremony.Out with the old
Lt. Col. Brett Morris, who served at Eastern for five years as battalion commander and a professor of military science, announced his retirement Aug. 26 at Keen Johnson Building.
“They call it retirement; it’s more like retention pay,” Morris said.
Morris said had he not retired, he would have been assigned to a command and general staff college in Kansas.
Rather, he said he wanted his last assignment to be in Richmond.
Morris’ service at Eastern was extended two years beyond the initially assigned three, and he called this the highlight of his career.
“The place kind of grows on you,” he said.
And Morris has given back to the city he now calls home.
Despite his retirement, Morris will still help with the university’s veterans’ memorial, set to open in November.
In his five years as Eastern’s ROTC commander, Morris has also commissioned 55 officers.
He said: “That’s kind of our mission – to leave something better than you found it. … I hope I’ve done that.”
Now, Morris plans to take a couple of months off.
“It takes a while to figure out what you want to be when you grow up,” Morris said.
He said he would spend more time with his family – his wife, Cynthia, and his daughter, Haleigh – and take care of a few household chores he had put off.
After his break, Morris said he would like to get into marketing or public relations.
Morris received his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University in advertising and marketing, and he said it was always something he had enjoyed.
“I guess I’ll go back there and see if there’s any passion left,” he said.
Anything, Morris said, but sitting behind a desk, so he can be out meeting people.
In with the new
People are also a motivating force behind Lt. Col. Chris Holly’s career choice, he said.
“It’s all about people,” said the incoming ROTC commander.
Holly said he has been impressed with Eastern and its students so far.
“The focus on students is the way to go,” he said about the university’s motto, “Students Come First.”
Holly has set a few goals for the ROTC under his command.
Among them, he would like to improve the Eastern program’s national ranking – which is in the top one-third, he said.
“We have the quality of students here to be ranked higher, I think,” he said.
Holly first got involved with ROTC at Old Dominion University more than 20 years ago.
Although he admits he joined for the money and only planned to stick with it for four years, Holly said he got hooked on the program.
“If it weren’t for the Army,” Holly said. “I wouldn’t have ever gotten an undergraduate or graduate degree.”
Holly served as the deputy operations officer and brigade executive officer for the 4th Brigade 78th Training Support Division, which helps mobilize units, in Fort Bragg, N.C., before he was selected to serve at Eastern.
The ROTC’s board of officers selected Holly more than a year and a half ago to serve here based on a list of his top choices. Eastern, he said, was in the top three.
Holly said Eastern fit for him because he wanted to serve at a smaller school, and Richmond fit because it was a small town close to a big city.
Eastern also appeared to be a good fit for his daughter Iris, his son-in-law Chris and his wife, Patty, as they are all now students here.
“I guess you could say I did my part in increasing enrollment,” Holly said.
He added his daughter Madison, now a junior at Madison Central High School, could attend the university as well as his grandson, Sean.
Now, Holly feels he is ready to lead a program that Morris said has commissioned more than 2,100 officers since 1936.
“ROTC is all about leadership, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 18 years,” Holly said.
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