Colonel becomes new commander of aircraft repair facility

Col. Clarence T. Harper III assumed command Friday morning of Fleet Readiness Center East during a change of command ceremony.

Harper, who has been the executive officer of aircraft repair and maintenance facility for the past two years, took over command from Col. Vincent E. Clark, who retired after 29 years of service as a Marine.

“Quite frankly, there ain’t much that’s going to change, bause me and the outgoing CO were joined at the hip,” Harper said before the ceremony. “Everything we were doing we did it together, so not much is going to change.”

Harper said FRC East “is on a journey to excellence,” and the only way to get there is through incremental improvements every day, over time.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said. “In order to make this place everything we know it can be, or maybe was at one time, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to connect the dots ’cause we’ve got some broken processes. We’ve got some things we need to fix. That’s just a fact of life.”

Harper said he is going to emphasize change because that is the only constant at FRC East.

“I’m totally motivated,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of damn energy and I’m going to spend more time here than with my family for the next two years. We don’t have to like each other. But we’ve got to love each other and we’ve got to respect one another.”

Harper, from Eatonton, Ga., and his wife have three daughters and a son, who is graduating from the School of Infantry at Camp Lejeune this week.

When speaking at the end of the ceremony to about 1,000 people in the hangar at FRC East, Harper said Col. Clark taught him a lot over the past two years.

“Outside of my pastor, he probably is the most humane and decent man I know,” Harper said. “That’s just a fact. So for the FRC East family I’m working on that, OK? I’m a work in progress. I think the best thing I can say about Vince Clark is every day when we came to work I saw Christ living inside of him.”

Harper also told the Fleet Readiness East employees that work would have to be done to meet that level of excellence they were all striving for.

“We’re good,” he said. “We’re really good. But we’re eventually going to make FRC East great again.”

Clark was also recognized for his service and excellence as a Marine and finally commander of Fleet Readiness Center East by Gen. Glenn Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, who said without Clark’s leadership and technical ability much of the work would not have gotten done.

“Your impact on our Corps has been tremendous for 30 years,” Walters said.

Clark said his success in the Marine Corps and life could be summed up in five attributes: humility, decency, integrity, accountability and responsibility.

FRC East began operations in 1943 as the assembly and repair department of the Marine Corps air station. Today it is the state’s largest industrial employer east of Interstate 95 with more than 3,800 military personnel, civilians and contractors.