Kentucky aviation brigade welcomes new commander

Story by Sgt. Cody Stagner, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Three helicopters from the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade fly over participants of the brigade’s change of command ceremony in Frankfort, Ky., June 7, 2014. Lt. Col. Michael Stephens took charge of the brigade from Col. Michael Ferguson. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Michael Reinersman, 63rd TAB PAO).

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Army National Guard’s 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade welcomed Lt. Col. Michael Stephens as brigade commander during a change of command ceremony at Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, June 7.

Stephens, a Whitley City, Kentucky native, assumed command from outgoing commander Col. Michael Ferguson.

“Col. Ferguson, without a doubt, is one of the most tactically proficient commanders we have had,” said Stephens. “I was his deputy commander for the past three years, so I have had the opportunity to, both, sit at his feet and learn and collaborate with him. The advantage we have is to be able to take our training and build on what we have learned as a team.”

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Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, the adjutant general of Kentucky, passes the colors of the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade to Lt. Col. Michael Stephens during a change of command ceremony in Frankfort, Ky., June 7, 2014. Stephens assumed command of the unit after previously serving as the brigade’s executive officer. (Kentucky Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Cody Stagner)

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Units from the 63rd and family members gathered at the Kentucky Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility for a memorable welcoming ceremony highlighted with howitzer blasts, helicopter flyovers and a keynote speech by Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, the adjutant general of Kentucky.

“This ceremony is important to, both, Col. Ferguson and myself, but it’s paramount to the Soldiers,” said Stephens. “This is their organization.”

Members within the brigade shared confidence in their new commander and pride themselves on being part of a tight knit group.

“Lt. Col. Stephens has deep faith that this organization is his family,” said the brigade’s training non-commissioned officer, Staff Sgt. Corey Smith, a native of Frankfort. “He brings that up and expresses it often. He is a very patient leader and will communicate well with everyone.”

Stephens began his career as an enlisted Soldier in the Kentucky National Guard before serving in the Active Army. He later returned to the Guard as a traditional guardsman and completed aviation and leadership driven schools.

In 2002, he began his Active Guard Reserve career by serving in various battalion, brigade, and joint forces headquarters level positions helping Soldiers.

“The care for Soldiers, unequivocally, will continue,” said Stephens. “You always run the risk of why try to fix something if it’s working. My model will be to look at the organization, not only as I have been watching it for three years, but now look at it as commander to continue to refine points that are going well and call out those things that are not working out.”

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Lt. Col. Michael Stephens passes the brigade colors to Command Sgt. Maj. Stocker to complete the change of command ceremony for the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade in Frankfort, Ky., June 7, 2014. Stephen and Stocker took the lead roles from Col. Michael Ferguson and Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Wilkins respectively. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Cody Stagner)

In addition, the brigade also conducted a change of responsibility ceremony in which Command Sgt. Maj. William Stocker joined Stephens as the new leading noncommissioned officer for the 63rd. Stocker, previously the operations sergeant major for the brigade,replaced Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin Wilkins as the brigade’s highest-ranking enlisted Soldier.

“The military command is something we are placed into, and I am excited for this opportunity,” said Stephens. “What’s awesome about this is that leadership is something the Soldiers give me. In other words, I will have to earn it.”

Video story by Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Hiler, 133rd MPAD

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