The new face of the Army

By Ed Brock

Standing before the troops he commanded up until that moment, Col. Harold Cooney, outgoing commander of Army Garrison Forts McPherson and Gillem made his last call on the commander's cell phone.

And then he passed the phone to Col. Angela Maria Manos, the first woman to command the twin installations.

"Here's your lifeline, I mean your cell phone," said Cooney, turning over the phone and the command he has held for the past three years.

Manos, 49, assumed command with the roar of cannon fire over Hedekin Field at Fort McPherson in East Point on Wednesday morning. A band played marches and stood at attention as the old and new commanders circled them in an inspection.

Family members and other invited members of the public sat shaded from the morning heat under tents while behind them stood the century old houses of officers row.

It is nothing new that Manos is the first woman to command the two bases that house the Army's Forces Command, the 1st Army and the 3rd Army headquarters, she said.

"I'm here because I've done the right things, I've had the right opportunities and I've had the right mentors," Manos said. "Women have been in the active force for 20 years."

A native of Houston, Texas, Manos recently graduated from the Army's War College in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. She joined the Army in 1979, the same year women became part of the Army's active force.

Manos has served as a member of the Army's military police force in Macedonia, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti and Kuwait. She's served in command positions as high as the battalion level, but this brigade level command she assumed Wednesday is the largest she has held.

Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem, which is in Forest Park, are staffed by 600 assigned soldiers and 9,800 attached personnel. Manos will also have to take care of 51,000 Army retirees and their families.

Manos, who is single, also has family in the Atlanta area, an adult son and her father. She lived in Atlanta for a few years and attended Georgia State University.

She has a bachelor's degree in criminology from American Technological University. She also has a Master of Military Art and Science degree from the Command and General Staff College, a Master of Science degree in national resources strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces and a doctorate degree in higher education from the University of Kansas.

And yet Manos started her military career as an enlisted soldier and didn't graduate from a military academy like United States Military Academy at West Point that generates a large number of the Army's future officers.

"I think it does make a difference. I think it makes me a better leader," Manos said. "It's something I'm very, very proud of."

One challenge Manos will face will be the Army's ongoing transformation into a lighter and more mobile attack force.

"I think we'll continue to transform, I think that's a long way from over," Manos said. "I think it's exciting."

Another goal will be to balance a need for security on the base in post Sept. 11 America with the desire to keep the two forts open to the public and part of the community.

"I think the key thing is the partnerships (between the garrison command and host cities like East Point and Forest Park)," Manos said. "I think those partnerships are evident and I look forward to expanding them some more."

During the ceremony Cooney was praised for his role in extending the partnerships to the cities of Morrow and College Park.

"We were keenly aware of our role as neighbors. We wanted to be good neighbors," Cooney said.

Cooney, 51, will go on to command the Army's 78th Training and Support Division in New Jersey before retiring next year. He said what he will miss the most about the command is the people.