For Lt. Col. Robert "Bob" A. O'Brien, Tuesday's leadership change at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega also marked a homecoming of sorts.
"It's nice to be back in Dahlonega," he said after an official ceremony at the Ranger School. "It still feels small-town, but there are definite indicators of the city and the county growing up."
O'Brien, a 1992 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., served as an ROTC instructor from 1997-99 at North Georgia College & State University.
He also earned a master of public administration degree — and met his future wife — at North Georgia.
O'Brien, a native of Lead, S.D., has assumed command of the 5th Ranger Training Battalion, Ranger Training Brigade, from Lt. Col. Christopher Stone and expects to head the camp for two years.
Stone, who was in charge since June 2009, has been reassigned to Vicenza, Italy, where he will serve as the deputy commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
O'Brien has served at Army installations around the world, including Germany, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
His most recent assignment was as deputy commander for the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Looking ahead at his work in Dahlonega, the 41-year-old O'Brien said, "The most important thing we're doing is training leaders for the Army by putting them through one of three phases of Ranger School.
"(Camp Merrill) is traditionally the most difficult phase because of the terrain, and we're transitioning the student ... into more education where he has got to think about how he's going to tackle different kinds of problems."
The 5th Ranger Training Battalion conducts the mountain phase of the Army's 61-day Ranger School.
Students spend 21 days learning mountaineering techniques.
"We also have a major infrastructure review that we're conducting," O'Brien said. "It's about 95 percent complete."
The expectation is that Camp Merrill will get refurbished over the next couple of years, "so we're putting a lot of attention on that."
Overall, "we're excited to be here so we can be involved in a community that is friendly to military folks," O'Brien said.