New York native Colonel Joseph Davidson, who has served as commander of Bay Ridge’s own Fort Hamilton Army Base for the past two years, will be headed to West Point Military Academy, where he will serve as commandant.
While he is excited by the latest move in his distinguished career, he told this paper in an exclusive interview that he will go with a bit of Bay Ridge in his heart.
What kind of mark has the Bay Ridge community left on you during your time at Fort Hamilton?
It reaffirms my belief in the importance of communities. When you watch the news, and you see some of the dysfunction going on within the government, you see that it’s nice to be at the lower level where local government does function, and you have the people taking care of the neighborhood, the neighborhood taking care of itself, and the local government working well.
It’s refreshing and reaffirming, and that’s one of the reasons that I’m in the military – to support and defend the Constitution – and living in a small town like Bay Ridge reminds me of that. People are so supportive, and that is uniquely Brooklyn.
What kind of mark do you think you have left?
I hope [residents of Bay Ridge] understand the perspective of the United States Army and also of Fort Hamilton. Those have always been my number one and number two priorities. It’s so important that New Yorkers understand what the armed forces does and why New Yorkers are important to the army.
What have been some of your favorite community events/happenings to be involved in?
There are so many. New York is such a big city but, just within Brooklyn and Bay Ridge itself, there is so much happening. Bay Ridge is such a great community. Locally, one event that makes me smile the most – I think you can’t help but smile when it’s brought up in conversation – is the Ragamuffin Parade. I went there shortly after I took command, and I remember that I knew that it was a kids parade, but I didn’t realize to what extent. I didn’t know my face could hurt so much from smiling. I kept saying, “Where are all of these kids coming from?”
That’s the easy answer, but there are so many great events and so many great people. Some big, some small. It’s been really overwhelming the support that we get – it leaves me speechless – and it’s actually not common. I’ve been stationed now around the world, and a lot of places in the United States, and in some places, you don’t get that kind of support. Fort Hamilton being smaller, it’s more of a real unbelievable support. The way the community embraces the military – you don’t see that too often.
What kind of support have you been given?
I can go on and on. There are always senior citizens who want to buy my lunch. The sentiment is so wonderful, and that’s throughout the entire city. Wherever I go, most people are extremely supportive.
What were your favorite things about your time at Fort Hamilton?
Working in the city itself is just such a unique opportunity and experience. None of my peers are doing anything remotely the same and they have different aspects of their jobs that I don’t necessarily do here, but most are not dealing with the largest city in the country. Just the sheer magnitude of what we do here, and how we try to be a part of multiple communities – it’s building relationships like that; it’s like having a friend.
Then you have the business side. One of our main focuses at Fort Hamilton is transitioning soldiers back into the civilian workforce, which is extremely important. I’ve been spending a lot of time on that, and that has been really important to me.
I give up command here in July, and I’ve been selected to be the commandant for West Point. I am not an academy grad, so it’s really unique to be going there and seeing yet another side of the Army. I’m very excited, it’s such a great opportunity.
My wife and I are both native New Yorkers, so we’re happy to be sticking around.