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New commander focuses on attracting and retaining talent at Fort Meade

Asked about his first months as garrison commander at Fort George G. Meade, Col. Erich Spragg declares, “It’s been an eye-opening experience.”

Before taking command of Fort Meade on August 3, Col. Spragg had served as a military intelligence officer for 23 years. He completed three deployments to Iraq and was subsequently assigned to the Army Staff as the Military Assistant for the Principal Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff. He commanded the 309th Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Huachuca, Arizona from 2014 to 2016 and served as Chief of Knowledge and Analysis Section, NATO Rapid Deployable Corps — Turkey from 2016 to 2017. He holds masters degrees from Georgetown University and the National Defense University.

Col. Spragg arrived at Fort Meade fully prepared to handle any high-level intelligence issues that might arise on a post that serves as headquarters to U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency.

However, “coming into an 06-level command as garrison commander is something they don’t necessarily train you for,” he said. “The challenges that I face as a garrison commander are completely different — anything from figuring out what to do with a large dirt pile to why on earth it takes years to get an entry-and-control point built to how to deal with potholes along the roads and mold in the buildings.”

Initially inundated by calls, e-mails and a surprising array of issues, Col. Spragg said he has since developed a deeper understanding of the garrison and a more streamlined vision for his priorities as garrison commander.

“I’m not as young and dumb as I was 90 days ago,” he said. “I realize that I am here for a limited time. I also realize that I could have a list of things a hundred deep or I could have just a few things to focus on.”

Col. Spragg has opted to prioritize three core issues.

The first is how to attract and retain talent at Fort Meade.

“Our service members are doing their full-time, wartime mission right here. They are the silent professionals who are keeping this country safe. They deserve the best that we have to offer,” Col. Spragg said. “The bulk of our military is made up of junior enlisted. They do tremendous work … but they aren’t the best paid people in the world.”

Consequently, providing service men and women with good quality of life is essential to attracting and retaining individuals, Col. Spragg said. That includes providing high-quality barracks, other housing, work spaces, and on-post services and programs. The planned Resiliency and Education Center at Kuhn Hall, he said, will help improve quality of life on Fort Meade and become “key to readiness.”

“The challenge is that our budgets continue to contract while our population continues to grow. There are some services, like child care, social services and others where we have to rely on the community for help,” he said. “For example, a child care provider who offers services for shift workers, and is flexible in pick-up and drop-off times, is much more conducive to the needs of military members at Fort Meade.”

Col. Spragg’s second priority is education, specifically ensuring that Fort Meade families have access to excellent educational opportunities for their children. He is particularly interested in ensuring that military families recognize and take full advantage of Meade High School and its specialized programs in cyber and homeland security.

Finally, Col. Spragg is focused on improving safety and security for service members, military families and civilian workers on post. Those initiatives could include opening an additional gate, widening the post’s road network to accommodate increasing traffic, and “getting rid of those potholes,” he said.