By T. Anthony Bell, Fort Lee Public Affairs
FORT LEE, Va. – As a military liaison for former Congressman J. Randy Forbes, one of Ronald O. White’s many duties was tending to the critical work of building relationships with the legislator’s various constituents.
In his new job as Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army for the Capital Region, the work will be similar to the former, however, both are extensions of what White has done most of his life – serve others.
“My life has pretty much been dedicated to public service,” said the 54-year-old New York City native. “When this opportunity was presented to me, I just took it as another way for me to serve my country and my Army.”
White, who retired here in 2005 as an Army lieutenant colonel, is one of nine new CASAs sworn in by Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning during a Jan. 9 ceremony at the Pentagon. CASAs are responsible for furthering the relationship between the Army and the American public.
“We are the sum of our Soldiers, civilians and their families, and their collective contributions,” said Fanning during remarks at the swearing-in. “(But) the Army is only as strong as our connection to the American people. Our CASAs are our front line of maintaining and strengthening that fundamental bond.”
Among those on hand to hail White’s achievement were his wife, Kathleen; Maj. Gen. Darrell K. Williams, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, and his wife Myra; and John E. Hall, CASCOM deputy to the commanding general.
Williams said White is well-suited for the position due to his longstanding connections with the local community and his varied experiences in and out of uniform.
“Ron brings a wealth of experience to this critical position,” he said. “He has deep ties to Fort Lee’s surrounding communities, and I believe he will make our already strong ties with them even better. Ron’s background as an Army officer who served here combined with his time serving as Congressman Forbes’ Military Liaison make him the ideal person for this role.
“We are very fortunate to have someone of Ron’s caliber representing Fort Lee and the surrounding areas,” Williams continued. “I look forward to working with Ron and have complete confidence that he will serve with distinction as the Secretary of the Army’s Civilian Aide for our area.”
White, currently the vice president for public and member relations for Southside Electric Cooperative, said his new job is comprised of bits and pieces of the work he has already done.
“My whole purpose is to be the conduit between the military installations and the Secretary of the Army,” he said. “I am the one who promotes and grows the relationship between the Army and the community that surrounds it.
“I am expected to continue to develop the relationships I’ve had over the years with local elected officials and community and civic leaders and do it in such a way that ensures the Army message is being disseminated to all citizens.”
White said one of his chief challenges is to connect with those having no affiliations with the military.
“Whether they have family members who are in the military or not should not be a factor in whether we engage them because the Army mission goes far beyond being deployed and fighting battles,” he said. “It includes volunteerism, community outreach and helping communities when there are natural disasters.”
White, a 1984 West Point graduate, has long played an informal role as Army ambassador. For years, he has been a staple at such events as city council meetings, deployments and redeployments, and changes of command, encouraging all he meets and presenting military service in the most positive light. That comes easy, he said, because he values the sacrifice of all who pledge to defend the country.
“I don’t know how you can be in the presence of these great men and women who serve our country and not develop a passion and love for not just the Army but also the military and the American way of life,” he said. “You can’t help but feel and become a part of their love of country, their dedication, their work ethic and their commitment.
“This is why I can very easily put passion into what I do. That’s easy for me.”
During his military career, White served in various capacities as a leader and staff officer, including a one-year tour in Haiti. He retired with 21 years of service in the Armor and Quartermaster corps. White is the father of two and grandfather of three. He resides in Midlothian.
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Fort Lee Soldiers, families and civilian employees began a century of support to the nation in 1917 when Camp Lee was established to train the 80th Division for service during WWI. Today, Fort Lee is the Army’s Home of Sustainment and supports the training, education and development of adaptive Army professionals in fields such as transportation, supply, culinary arts and equipment repair and maintenance. Major organizations on the installation include the Defense Commissary Agency, Defense Contract Management Agency, Combined Arms Support Command, the Army Logistics University, U.S. Army Ordnance School, U.S. Army Quartermaster School and U.S. Army Transportation School. Fort Lee supports nearly 86,000 Soldiers, retirees, veterans, family members and civilian employees and boasts an economic impact of about $2.4 billion per year.