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The U.S. Army transferred authority over the Army Sustainment Command to a civilian Friday — an unusual, albeit temporary event.

Maj. Gen. Patricia McQuistion turned over the reins of command at an Arsenal Island ceremony Friday. McQuistion will become the deputy commanding general and chief of staff at the Army Materiel Command in Huntsville, Ala., where she’ll also get her third star and be promoted to lieutenant general. The unit is the higher headquarters for the sustainment command.

McQuistion will be replaced by Brig. Gen. John Wharton, but that won’t happen until September. In the meantime, 51-year-old Scott Welker, a civilian from Davenport who has worked at the Arsenal for 29 years, will become the command’s executive director. He has been the top civilian at the agency. His first job, 29 years ago, was as an intern.

McQuistion’s tenure here was historic. She is the first woman to be the mission commander on the Arsenal. But it was also short. She’s been here only 10 months.

Still, a Quad-City Chamber of Commerce official said Friday she’s been embraced, and now somebody who has experienced the Arsenal’s capability will move up to a high post in the chain of command at a time when the Army is facing strategic and financial change.

“I think it’s a blessing in disguise to have had Gen. McQuistion here for 10 months, but for her next position to be as deputy commander of the Army Materiel Command,” said Paul Rumler, executive vice president of the chamber.

McQuistion, occasionally emotional during the ceremony, praised the work force.

“I don’t think there is any assignment that would have better prepared me for my next assignment,” she said. “I’m just so confident in this command’s ability to accomplish tremendous things for our Army.“

Welker, meanwhile, said in an interview that he is humbled by the responsibility given him.

“Even though it’s for a short while, it’s sort of awe-inspiring,” he said.

Welker has been with the unit as it has expanded its footprint around the world and its responsibilities within the Army. In October, for example, it will pick up a logistics directorate that will boost its employment, including contractors, to more than 90,000 people.

Welker said the command is one of the most globally dispersed and complex in the Army.

This isn’t the first time that an Arsenal-based command has transferred authority to a civilian. Officials say it has happened with the Joint Munitions Command. Still, it is unusual, as signified by the Army’s titling of the ceremony. The Army referred to it not as the traditional “change of command” ceremony, but as a “transfer of authority.”

The Army Sustainment Command currently employs 70,000 people, including contractors, worldwide. There are about 1,000 working in the command’s headquarters on the island.

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