Making history: First Black commander tapped for Mississippi-based Corps of Engineers research and laboratory center
Published 3:26 pm Sunday, July 17, 2022
For the second time in three years, the change of command ceremonies at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center marked a historic milestone as outgoing Col. Teresa Schlosser, ERDC’s first female commander transferred command to Col. Christian Patterson, ERDC’s first Black commander.
The ceremony also marked Schlosser’s retirement from the Army, ending a 28-year career.
“It’s an amazing thing to be part of history as it is being made,” Schlosser said in her remarks. “As the first female commander, it’s pretty amazing to pass the colors to the first Black commander. Not only that, but Chris is also the first National Guardsman to command ERDC, not just within ERDC, but in the Corps of Engineers; that’s pretty amazing.”
Also, Schlosser said, Patterson, who has a pubic affairs background and who has been stationed at ERDC as the organization’s director of communications, is the first commander to come from within ERDC. Usually, she said, the military doesn’t elevate commanders from within a unit; “We always bring somebody from outside.”
“Chris knows ERDC,” she said. “Chris is a great officer and a truly good person and he’s familiar with ERDC and its dedicated people.”
Command, Schlosser said, “Is a privilege and an honor. Commanders are entrusted with the safety and welfare and discipline of their unit… there is no greater trust bestowed upon an officer than to be placed in command of one of our nation’s greatest resources.
“Chris, I know that you will embrace this sacred trust and you’ll take care of your people; that you will be fair and consistent and strong and that you will always put their needs above your own,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what you do next to help move ERDC to its next height under your command.”
Maj. Gen. Richard Heitkamp, deputy commanding general for the Corps of Engineers, called getting Patterson from the National Guard “a coup.”
Citing Patterson’s background in public relations and public affairs, Heitkamp said, “We have plenty of engineers; what we don’t need is another engineer. What we need to do is better sell the fantastic capabilities we have here. That’s why we need you. We’re not such great marketing experts.”
A native of Jackson, Patterson enlisted in the Mississippi National Guard in 1994 as a private broadcast specialist. He was commissioned a second lieutenant from the Louisiana State University Reserve Officer’s Training Corps.
He has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from LSU an associate’s degree in TV and film from Hinds Community College and a master’s in business administration from Belhaven University.
He has been stationed at ERDC for three years.
In an interview before the change of command ceremony, Patterson said serving as a professional communicator in the public retains public affairs arena for 28 years has helped him understand internal and external communications.
“One of the big things (at ERDC) we’re trying to grow stronger and stronger in every day is getting the message out about the tremendous work that’s being done here in Vicksburg and at our other sites outside the state,” he said.
“I’ve been at ERDC serving the past three years and made the rounds of our facilities to understand the science and technology that’s going on,” Patterson said. “I’ve been blessed to be able to kind of break that down so that people can understand.”
Schlosser, he said, “Has been a tremendous officer and an outstanding mentor. She has taught me so much over the past year. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience that she has brought from her overseas time and in the states.”
Patterson called the employees at ERDC a diverse team “and it takes everybody working hard and working as a team to complete the mission. I’m honored that I was selected as the right person for the job. I’m very, very happy to be here.
“This is an outstanding team of professional researchers and scientists and other personnel who work very hard in order to deliver awesome innovative solutions for our nation and our military.”
In his remarks during the change of command, Patterson said ERDC’s team “is one of the premier engineering and research and development organizations in the world. It’s because of our people.
“ERDC family, over the past three years I’ve listened and here’s what I know in my heart: we have people who care for each other, relentlessly pursue high standards and are passionate about giving all they have for our country each and every day. It is a tremendous honor to continue service with you and to serve with you. Thanks for what you do.”