Twice a brigade commander, always a leader

Story by Maj. David page, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Lt. Col. Jerry Morrison (left) presents Col. John Edwards framed guidons during a change of command ceremony in Richmond, Ky., Feb. 2, 2014. The two guidons represent Edwards’ service as the commander of both the 75th Troop Command and the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Brandy Mort)

RICHMOND, Ky. — To command at a brigade-level unit is an honor for which most officers can only dream, but for Col.  John H. Edwards, he has now lived that opportunity twice.

In 2011, Edwards was placed in command of the 75th Troop Command in Richmond, where he served with distinction. Then in August 2013, he was tapped again to help with the reorganization and move of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

“My staff and I helped conduct a re-stationing initiative for the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade,” said Edwards. “It was an honor and privilege to do it. And, if given the chance, I would do it all over again.”

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Col. John H. Edwards Jr. unfurls the colors of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade during an uncasing ceremony in Richmond, Ky., Nov. 1, 2013. Edwards played a pivotal role in the major realignment of the brigades leading up to the transition. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

Not only did he and his team move the headquarters from Louisville to Richmond, they also reorganized units, which meant losing units like the 751st Troop Command but gaining units like the 198th Military Police Battalion.

“I am proud that we took the brigade from less than 100 percent strength to now 103 percent. And, we moved from 80 percent MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) qualified personnel to now over 91 percent,” he said.

It should not be of any surprise that Edwards has had the honor of commanding two separate brigades. His prior leadership positions, which ranged through platoon leader through battalion command, as well as awards such as the Bronze Star Medal awarded during his deployment to Kuwait in 2005-2006 as the Camp Victory commander, are testament to his ability and the faith the Kentucky National Guard leadership has bestowed on him.

“I have been successful because of the influence of my mother,” said Edwards. As a single parent, his mother instilled in him the drive to achieve and study hard. Her influence is evident in his education. He holds an Associates in Science in Engineering from Georgia Military College, a Bachelor of Science in Occupation Training and Development from the University of Louisville, a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College, and he is working on a second master’s degree in clinical psychology from Capella University.

But Edwards also recognizes the importance his military mentors have played in his life and ultimately his military career. “I have had numerous military mentors along the way who helped me learn and grow as an officer,” he said.  “I encourage every young Soldier to seek out strong mentors.”

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Col. John Edwards Jr. speaks to the Soldiers of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade during an uncasing ceremony in Richmond, Ky., Nov. 1, 2013. In both brigades Edwards has commanded, he has always asked his Soldiers to give nothing less than 110 percent both in uniform and out. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

On Feb. 2, Edwards relinquished command of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade to Lt. Col. Jerry Morrison. With this change of command, Edwards now becomes the director of the J-7, in charge of joint doctrine, joint operations and joint training concepts.

When asked what enduring mark he hoped he left with his Soldiers at the 149th MEB , Edwards said, “I hope I left my Soldiers with two things: one, every Soldier in the Brigade plays an important role in the success of the unit. Be proud of what you do in the military and represent you and your unit with distinction and honor, both in and out of uniform. Two, education is key, whether military or civilian. Every day you can learn something new so always strive to grow yourself.”

As February is Black History Month, Edwards was asked what advice he would you give to young minority Soldiers in today’s National Guard.

“Regardless of what anybody tells you, you can be whatever you desire to be,” he said.  “Don’t let anyone persuade you or tell you what you can or cannot do. You do what is in your heart. If you give it 110 percent, you will accomplish your desires, aspirations and dreams.”

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