Col. Michael Fitzgerald, commanding officer, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, came into his position in July. It was an interesting time. The COVID-19 pandemic was rampant, and the installation he leads has been active in recent years in energy efficiency efforts and testing of new technology.
In his time here, his plan is for those efforts to be built upon while ensuring the base’s future workforce is developed in order to properly meet the standards such advancements require.
Fitzgerald received his commission in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1996 as a ground supply officer. His first assignment was at MCLB Albany.
“I did typical fleet tours around the Marine Corps. When the command board came up, I was selected to this command. It seems only fitting to come back here,” he said.
The son of a career Navy officer, the thought of becoming a Marine came to him at an early age. A military police Marine in Virginia Beach, Virginia caught his eye as a child.
“It caught my attention every time as a little kid,” Fitzgerald said. “I wanted to go around the world, see different things.”
His father was in Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California when he was born. The elder Fitzgerald’s service in the Navy took him to Norfolk, Virginia, and he eventually retired in New York.
Now a few months into his commanding officer role, Fitzgerald is hitting the ground running.
“I feel good. I am looking forward to the challenges ahead,” he said.
Among those challenges will be helping to shift the Fleet Marine Force into a new era.
“We are preparing for digital-age warfare,” Fitzgerald said. “Every community has their challenges. I am excited to be here.”
“We are preparing the base for the next 50 years, so to speak,” he added.
Many things have changed in southwest Georgia since Fitzgerald’s first time at MCLB Albany. There is at least one thing that has remained the same.
“Like last time, this is a very close-knit community,” the colonel said. “Everyone looks out for everyone in small-town America. On most military installations, they are so large that individuals get lost.”
“At other installations, you get lost in the sheer numbers and not just in the local population. Everyone knows everyone here,” he continued.
The greatest difference from his first MCLB Albany tour is the force design shift which is transitioning the installation, and the Marine Corps as a whole, into the next generation.
Like the community itself, certain things about the Corps and those serving it have not changed.
“They are still Marines, and still providing the backbone of support,” Fitzgerald said.
Coming back to MCLB Albany put Fitzgerald in a leadership role alongside Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Young, sergeant major, MCLB Albany. Both Marines have worked together before.
“Col. Fitzgerald has always been that Marine leaders who leads with dignity, integrity and compassion,” Young said. “He always seeks out the advice of his senior enlisted advisor prior to making any command decisions. This is my sixth command tour, second working with Col. Fitzgerald. It has truly been my personal and professional honor to serve with him again.”
“One of the pillars that Col. Fitzgerald and I continuously work upon to improve upon is teamwork,” the senior enlisted advisor added. “MCLB is a tight family and it takes the team, both Marines and civilians to work together in order to complete the mission. We have made great strides in breaking down self-made barriers in order to facilitate a family environment that builds upon unity of effort and cohesiveness which results in increase productivity and efficiency within the work place.”
Many Marines serving at MCLB Albany have families, which means the base accommodates military children. That, along with the development of future employees, makes it helpful for leaders such as Fitzgerald to build relationships with southwest Georgia school superintendents and college and university presidents.
“What the workforce is going to need to look like in 10, 20, 30 years from now, and what their educational background needs to look like (is a focus),” the commanding officer said. “There will be several discussions as we transition to digital-age warfare.”
Fitzgerald said he wishes to set the conditions MCLB Albany will be working under for the next half-century. This includes adopting the computer systems of tomorrow, robotics and the other things leading toward what the base needs in the years ahead.
“We don’t have a precise blueprint but we have an idea of where we want to go,” he said. “We will be transforming to handle 5G and advanced manufacturing – all the things leading toward future and the resources we need.”
Fitzgerald said he sees Albany as the next Silicon Valley, comparing the Good Life City to the potential the San Francisco Bay Area region had decades ago in fostering developing technology.
“(Silicon Valley) set the stage for moonshots in the 60’s and 70’s,” MCLB Albany’s commanding officer said. “I see potential for advanced manufacturing. There is potential Albany could be the manufacturing capital in Georgia.”
The colonel has a hands-on approach to help him understand rules, principles and why they exist.
“I tend to lean toward aggressive as a Marine officer, but I don’t want to be too aggressive,” Fitzgerald said. “Marines in general tend to be aggressive, tackle and face issues head-on.”
“The more senior I get, the more I step back,” he continued.
A priority is looking at how MCLB Albany helps the overall Department of Defense through the initiatives it is undertaking, such as the base’s Facilities-Related Control System and its Net Zero efforts, and how they help both the DoD and installation propel forward.
“We are a small DoD installation,” Fitzgerald said. “The DoD looks to us to test to see if these initiatives can be scaled up to larger bases, larger institutions. (We can assess) what is a good investment and what isn’t.”
As COVID-19 has continued its hold on the Albany area, and the world as a whole, knowledge has been gained on how to live in an environment where such a public health threat exists.
This means MCLB Albany has been compelled to figure out a way to continue supporting Marine Corps Logistics Command and its mission while maintaining combat readiness amongst the Marines aboard the installation.
“We have to be cautious, not cavalier,” Fitzgerald stated. “As we start to interact with educational leaders we have to learn how to live in a COVID environment. We need to practice handwashing, wear face masks and social distance. That we will just have to think about it a little more.
“Dougherty County, the state of Georgia and the Marine Corps has to move forward and live with the knowledge of how to battle the disease. At the end of the day, it comes down to getting the mission done. We are reducing the (public health) risk as much as possible, just like we do with our safety efforts through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Voluntary Protection Program,” he added.
Building the personnel skill sets for up-and-coming employees is getting increased attention going forward.
“It will not happen overnight,” Fitzgerald noted. “It will take a couple of decades. The efforts in Silicon Valley paid off in the 70’s and 80’s, and remain beneficial to this day.”
“We are at a unique crossroads (in southwest Georgia),” he went on to say. “All of us can write our own ticket. We have always rolled up our sleeves when hard work is required. We are one in the same; we have to focus with each other and reinforce a strong bond that already exists.”
The commanding officer’s biography said he reported to 3rd Transportation Support Battalion in 1999 as the maintenance company executive officer/maintenance management officer.
In 2000, he deployed as operations officer for Combat Service Support Detachment-34 in support of Exercise Cobra Gold. He became the unit supply officer and executive officer for CSSD-39 Air Contingency Marine Air-Ground Task Force upon his return. Fitzgerald then received orders to 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division, where the unit participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in the “March-Up to Baghdad.”
He attended Marine Corps University’s Expeditionary Warfare School in Quantico, Virginia from 2004 to 2005. Fitzgerald transferred to Marine Corps Tactical Support Systems Activity after graduation to act as the Supply Management Unit’s officer-in-charge and supply officer.
He reported to 2nd Supply Battalion in 2008 to be the operations officer for the unit’s deployment to Iraq. The battalion deployed in 2009 to Iraq to retrograde the Marines Corps’ intermediate level supply and maintenance capabilities along with equipment supporting the Iraqi Theater.
Fitzgerald became the supply company commander upon the unit’s return from deployment. He reported to Marine Corps University’s Command and Staff College in 2010, receiving a master’s degree.
He later transferred to Combat Logistics Regiment-17 as the operations officer.
Fitzgerald took command of 1st Supply Battalion in 2012 and maintained the position for two years. Upon relinquishing command, he immediately deployed to Afghanistan as the executive officer for redeployment and retrograde in support of Reset and Reconstitution Operations Group.
This effectively returned or disposed all Marine Corps equipment back to the United States in 2014.
He became deputy G4 for 1st Marine Logistics Group upon return from deployment and was selected to attend Top Level School. During the summer of 2016, Fitzgerald received orders to Marine Corps Special Operations Command to be the G8 future requirements branch head.
Fitzgerald has attended The Basic School, Ground Supply Officers Course, Mountain Leaders Course, Maintenance Management Leaders Course, Joint Maritime Preposition Force Planners Course, Tactical Logistics Operations Course, Marine Corps Logistics Education Program at Pennsylvania State University, Advanced Logistics Operations Course, Commanders Course and Senior Officers Legal Course.
He has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the State University of New York at Cortland, a master’s degree in military studies from Marine Corps University and another master’s from National Defense University’s Eisenhower School in national resource strategy.