138th Fires Brigade holds change of command ceremony

Story by Capt. Gus LaFontaine, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Soldiers salute during the change of command ceremony for the Kentucky National Guard’s 138th Fires Brigade at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Ky. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Gus LaFontaine, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

WENDELL H. FORD REGIONAL TRAINING CENTER, GREENVILLE, Ky. — The 138th Fires Brigade held a change of command ceremony on August 1st. 2014 at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center in Greenville, Kentucky.

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Col. Brian F. Wertzler was presented a Kentucky Long Rifle during the change of command ceremony for the Kentucky National Guard’s 138th Fires Brigade. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Gus LaFontaine, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Outgoing commander Col. Brian Wertzler yielded command of the 138th Fires Brigade to Lt. Col. Rob Larkin.  Several family members, friends, and Guardsmen were in attendance. Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini spoke during the ceremony.

“The 138th is one of the nation’s premier Field Artillery Brigades. They are a trained, ready and relevant force which is prepared to respond to the needs of our communities, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and our great nation.”

Tonini cited many of the accomplishments the brigade achieved under the command of Wertzler including the mobilization of more than half of the brigade to theaters of operation in Africa and Afghanistan. Wertzler leaves the brigade at 111 percent strength and 97 percent MOS qualified.

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Soldiers prepare to fire during the change of command ceremony for the Kentucky National Guard’s 138th Fires Brigade. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Gus LaFontaine, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Wertzler reflected on his time as commander of the 138th.

“It’s been the highlight of my career. To not only lead but also to be part of such a professional organization, it’s made me proud every day to be a part of it. Not necessarily as a leader but as a part of the team and what we’ve accomplished in three years.”

Wertzler offered praise to the Soldiers he commanded.

“We had a lot of things going on throughout my command which included deployments, mobilizations, additional training requirements and they rose and exceeded every challenge I had for them so I thank them. A true heartfelt thanks.”

Larkin now assumes command of the 138th. Larkin is from Maysville, Kentucky. He is a graduate of the United States Army War College and received his master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. In his civilian career Larkin serves as a Captain in the Lexington Fire Department. Larkin deployed with the 138th to Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. He also deployed in support of Hurricane Katrina.

Larkin spoke about his vision for the 138th while recognizing the effect of the high operational tempo the 138th has faced for more than a decade.

“For the past 13 years we’ve pretty much done a non-standard mission. We’ve had very little time of developing artillery skills. That’s essential to what we’re going to do. We’re going to get back to field artillery core competencies.”

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Lt. Col. Rob Larkin receives the colors from Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini during the change of command ceremony for the Kentucky National Guard’s 138th Fires Brigade. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Gus LaFontaine, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Larkin recognized the challenge of commanding such a distinguished brigade but expressed confidence in the Soldiers of the 138th.

“This brigade is number one in so many different categories. To maintain that is a huge amount of work and it’s a little bit of a daunting task but I’ve got great people, we’ll get through it.”

Larkin offered this counsel to the Soldiers he now commands.

“Make the most of what of what we’ve got to offer, work hard, continue to improve yourselves because when you do that you improve the unit. Stay in; you’re not going to find anything like this on the civilian side. This is the best part-time job somebody can have.”

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