New commander, bigger role for reactivated 'Fort' Devens By Don Eriksson (Nashoba Publishing/John Love) Staff Writer DEVENS -- "Fort" Devens is anticipating an expanded military role, according to new commander Lt. Col. Steven Nott, and parts of it are already evident. The sounds of "reveille" and "retreat" can now be heard daily over loudspeakers. A secure entry gate, established by former commander Lt. Col. Caryn Heard, has been strengthened. Non-military guests are escorted to and from their destinations, in keeping with standard Army procedure. And Devens is again -- officially -- "Fort Devens" within the Department of the Army, inhabited by soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines. None of this militarization is because Nott is an infantry officer, a combat veteran, a former 10th Mountain Division company commander, or because he is a Ranger, Airborne and Air Assault school graduate. It's official Army policy that coincidentally matches the infantry officer's frame of reference. What differs from days of old is the involvement of civilian managers within the chain of command; jobs, Nott said, that are akin to a city manager. "The Army is decentralizing to a great degree in a cultural shift," he said. "The pre-9/11 Army was division-centric, as it had been since World War II; a division (roughly 20,000 soldiers in three or more brigades) being the smallest entity that could deploy as self-sustaining." Organization has shifted to brigades rather than divisions. Brigade sizes vary, but they are generally larger than they were under the division-centric model. Minimum deployment capability is now the brigade combat team. Both brigades and their combat teams are self-sustaining for a short period, Nott explained. The garrison environment was part of the transformation during the downsizing of the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) days of the early 1990s. The Fort Devens Reserve Forces Training Area was downsized in March 1996 by the Secretary of the Army. Nott explained that until eight to 10 years ago, garrisons were not created at a national level. They were developed internally under a senior division commander, usually a two-star general, and each made its own funding requests. When the Army recognized the involvement of professional civilians in its function -- Nott's so-called "city managers" -- Devens was reorganized under IMCOM (Installation Management Command, headed by a three-star general). The woman in charge of New England, ironically, was a Ms. Devens, he said. In May, installation names became standardized beginning with USAG (U.S. Army garrison), followed by the name. Devens is officially USAG Fort Devens. "It isn't my idea, as some think," Nott said, adding that he was just "implementing orders." The increased security was also not his idea. That was ordered Army-wide following an incident at Fort Dix in New Jersey this year, in which six would-be terrorist assassins sought entry in order to kill as many people as possible. In April 2007, Fort Devens, became a TTC (Task Training Center) in the Total Army School system with its personnel service school and a downsized military intelligence school. An additional 300 to 700 service members now live here, doubling the number of "permanent party" residents. "We're growing in mission and people," he said. Some 350 military students rotate through in two- to 10-week classes under the command of Chief Warrant Officer Steven Mehl. "I call it transient permanent party," Nott said. "These are Army Reserve schools but anyone -- reservists, National Guard, Navy, Air Force, Marines -- can go. "I have been told to prepare for more unit training as early as next summer," Nott added. "I believe it will happen. These will be pre-mobilization personnel who have orders but are not mobilizing. This is absolutely good news for Fort Devens." Other growth is emerging. An $80 million training center included in Defense Department funding plans two years ago is "supposed to happen within a year," Nott said. "It's supposed to be starting as we speak." It will be an Army Reserve maintenance training facility. The move to Devens is Nott's ninth and his fourth in six years. However, the reception here has been the best, he said. "Normally you have to go introduce yourselves at parties, etc. Here, as we were unpacking I had neighbors from blocks away coming over," Nott said. "Most of America is not that way. Two days later my kids were playing with their kids." The rendering of reveille and retreat is done over the emergency response system speakers. Nott said that is being updated with the added security and will include volume control. "A lot of folks are pleased with it. I've only had one complaint and that was from far away," the Walnut Street resident said. "Today's Army is a great Army. I'm humbled at how often soldiers raise their hands to give back," said the 20-year veteran. "I don't believe my generation would have done that. I'm the last year of the baby boomers. The kids today will be the leaders of tomorrow and I have confidence in them." Military volunteers in post-9/11 America understand there is evil in the world, he said, and that affects how they view the world. "Taking nothing away from the World War II veterans, we have the potential for the greatest generation coming up. I love the soldiers of today. It will be a better Army soon. Six years ago the combat patch was a rare commodity. Today it's hard to find anyone without one," he said. Nott said the Fort Devens signs also will be coming soon. "I've gotten feedback. It's my charge, and I'm implementing it," he said. "We're transforming with everyone."