Crane Army Ammunition Activity welcomes first female commander

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CRANE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — The Crane Army Ammunition Activity welcomed in its 20th commander on July 13 with a change of command ceremony in Crane, Ind.

Col. Santee Vasquez was inducted as commander of the ammunitions base during the ceremony, a military tradition symbolizing transitions of power and recognizes an outgoing commander’s accomplishments.

When Col. Vasquez joined the U.S. Army 23 years ago, she was looking for a way to offset the cost of her college tuition.

“23 years later, I’m still having fun and getting challenged in different ways,” she said. “This time with Crane. It’s munitions so not giving out ammunition but actually how we manufacture it. It’s a great learning opportunity.”

In her new role, Vasquez will lead the base in their mission to produce, renovate, store, ship and demilitarize ammunition for the US Department of Defense.

“It’s no secret that Crane Army is a massive part of establishing our nation’s munitions readiness,” Vasquez said. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work alongside you as we provide readiness for today’s warfighter and the warfighter of the future.”

Vasquez is stepping into the command role after previously serving at the US Army’s Tank Automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, Mich. She said leading a civilian workforce will be a new experience.

“It’s a whole different management level and there’s different systems that we help to evaluate and develop them and rate them,” Vasquez continued. “What I think I’ve found is that no matter what suit you wear, you’re still the same at heart so people are people. They want the same levels of dignity and respect and they want to come to work and love what they do.”

CAAA outgoing commander Col. Stephen Dondero was in attendance to welcome Vasquez and transfer command over to her. Additionally, Brig. Gen. Gavin Gardner, the commanding general of Joint Munitions Command, led the event.

“I have had the pleasure of watching Santee Vasquez ably lead organizations and formations in both peacetime and in combat,” Garner said. “If there is anyone prepared to lead Crane Army, it’s her.”

Gardner also added that Dondero’s dedication to Crane Army and his accomplishments during his tenure went beyond the call of duty and that his next post will be lucky to have him as commander.

“For the last two years, Steve Dondero has been instrumental in our efforts to modernize our Organic Industrial Base,” Garner said. “You have a lot to be proud of with what you and the team have accomplished here. You may be leaving the command, but your impact on CAAA and JMC is one that will last.”

Col. Vasquez said she hopes to help set a strong foundation for those that come after her.

“How do we keep this workforce employed? How do we continue to have relevancy within the joint ammunitions community? There’s a lot going here that I’m excited to learn about and help progress,” she concluded. “So that you know when I leave, that this is a phenomenal organization that someone takes over and just continues rolling along and pushing them forward.”

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