Col. Edward Rothstein arrived at Fort Meade two years ago and tackled a flurry of work that never truly stopped. He’ll be finishing his tenure as installation commander on August 8, and won’t be slowing down between now and then.
“I walked into this job in a sprint attitude and plan to leave with a sprint,” he said in a recent interview with Patch.
Rothstein will be replaced by Col. Brian P. Foley, commander of the 50th Signal Battalion from Fort Bragg, NC.
The evidence of Rothstein’s leadership is evident on base, as he oversaw the continued transformation of the installation. There’s a new PX building under construction, along with new privatized apartments, a new veterans’ health clinic and road improvements.
"My expectations were to do the best I can with my personal values and being a leader and lead this community, but I didn't really know what I was getting into,” said Rothstein, who served as an intelligence operations chief in Afghanistan before arriving at Fort Meade.
Indeed, there were many things, including the ongoing construction, that went more or less as expected. But there were curveballs.
Early in his tenure, Rothstein learned that the installation would host the hearings and trial related to the court martial of accused Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning. Then he learned that the government would make across-the-board spending cuts, leading to furloughs for the garrison staff and many agencies.
“The key there was for me to recognize the individual that was being furloughed,” he said. “Job satisfaction is so important for resiliency."
When he arrived, Rothstein said he wanted to focus his attention on three areas: continuing the base transformation, delivering services, and building support in the wider Fort Meade community. The first two came naturally for him, and the third came quickly with the creation of the Fort Meade Community Covenant Council, which codified support from community leaders throughout the area.
Shortly after arriving, he quickly added a fourth area of focus—the issue of troop resiliency. After dealing with a number of suicides among service members and responding to issues such as synthetic marijuana use and sexual assault, he set out to build a series of programs designed to offer support.
"It was looking at my own personal experiences,” he said. “After multiple deployments after 25 years on active duty I recognized a need to deal with stress. Resiliency, as I define it, is how to I mitigate that stress and help myself and others stay healthy."
A key part of the resiliency effort came when Fort Meade opened a sizable USO center on post, complete with cyber cafe and flatscreen televisions. The installation is now also building a resiliency center and campus.
"Resiliency is so necessary now and forever,” he said.
Rothstein acknowledged that much of the day-to-day work of running the installation often felt far removed from the battlefield. But he was always quick to remind himself of the need to support service members in all areas.
"One of the terms we use a lot is 'nesting,’” he said. “What it means is taking your actions and seeing how they tie together and build something."
After leaving Fort Meade, Rothstein plans to take his family to Disney World, then will officially retire from the military by next fall. He and his family recently purchased a home in Sykesville, and he said he expects to remain active in the area.
Rothstein offered appreciation for this family, including wife Audrey and children Emily and Sam.
"They've dealt with a lot throughout my career and have dealt with it in a manner that really should be applauded by the entire community,” he said. “It is bittersweet, giving up command. But wearing a uniform for so long, the one constant is change. You learn to embrace it."