SOUTH EL MONTE, Calif. – Col. Aaron Barta relinquished command of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District to Col. Julie Balten during a change of command ceremony July 14 at the LA District’s South El Monte Baseyard.
Joining the ceremony, both in person and virtually, were family and friends of Barta and Balten, along with congressional representatives and staff; federal, state, county and local leaders; private partners and stakeholders; military, civil and interagency program partners; current and former team members of the LA District; and Corps of Engineers senior leaders, such as John Moreno, South Pacific Division regional business director, Senior Executive Service, who attended in person.
Brig. Gen. Kimberly Colloton, the South Pacific Division commander and a former LA District commander herself, served as presiding officer for the ceremony.
“Unfortunately because of COVID-19 and out of an abundance of caution, we had to minimize attendance, but we all miss the opportunity for the relationship-building and the face-to-face partnering that happens during normal changes of command,” Colloton said. “I would ask that you don’t let that stop you from writing an email, picking up the phone or a pen, calling in and sending a note to make those introductions or to say those farewells.”
Colloton praised Barta’s leadership throughout the past two years and the hard work of the diverse team supporting and surrounding him that helps comprise the LA District.
“For the past two years with your deputy district commanders – Lt. Col. Scotty Autin and Col. Daryll Fust, and your civilian deputy, David Van Dorpe – they’ve led a passionate and proficient team of project managers, engineers, planners, maintenance and operations specialists, scientists, resource managers, rangers, biologists, archaeologists, and the list goes on and on. Your team is truly the best the west has to offer.
“You have some of the most talented and dedicated civilians who, even in these unpredictable times, have been moving dirt and continue to take on some of the biggest missions in our region – coastal navigation, critical dam safety projects, flood control efforts, water conservation, support to FEMA and disaster response and recovery, military construction, work for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Customs and Border Protection and responsibility for regulatory authority over one of the largest districts in the Corps,” Colloton continued.
Colloton said she was proud of everything Barta and his team accomplished during a time of diverse missions and unprecedented challenges.
“Through your leadership, Aaron, the district has delivered engineering solutions and worked through diverse challenges to remain responsive, executing over $3 billion in projects for the benefit of the public and our nation,” she said. “You’ve achieved the vision and delivered for USACE and the nation, reducing risks and continuing to actively help the region recover and be postured for the future.
“I am confident the reputation of the Los Angeles District to continue to be ready, reliable, responsive and relevant, and that Col. Balten will build upon what has been built under your watch and enable the district to continue to provide value for years to come,” she added.
During his remarks, Barta recounted the many challenges he and his team have met head on during his command, including major dam reclassifications, border barrier project work and alternate care facility sites in three states during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Barta also thanked a long list of organizations, leaders, partners and stakeholders for helping make the mission possible across the 226,000 square miles that make up LA District’s area of responsibility.
“I’m the first to recognize that with my departure, the flag and the district remain steady and will continue to shine,” Barta said. “I will forever in my days be proud to be part of this district. The Los Angeles District is very deep with strong civilian leaders, who are just as committed to this flag and this patch, and our nation, as any Soldier that I’ve ever met in my career.”
Barta, who is now set to retire from the Army after more than 24 years of distinguished service, welcomed Balten and her family, and wished them well on the challenges that lie ahead.
“It’s an honor and a privilege for me to be here and have the opportunity to command this prestigious district,” Balten said. “I did not get here alone. It’s been the people – and there have been a lot of people – who have helped me to learn and grow along the way.”
Balten made it a point to thank Barta for welcoming her and her family to the district and for making a smooth transition possible between the two leaders.
“It’s obvious to me that you have made a positive impact on the district, and Mike and I are very excited for you and your family on your next journey,” she told Barta.
“Over the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about some of the many project successes and challenges facing the Los Angeles District and its many stakeholders,” Balten added. “I know it will be the dedicated people in the district working hand in hand with our stakeholders and partners that will continue to deliver the program throughout the Los Angeles District’s area of responsibility and the nation.”