Mountain Warriors welcome new commander

By Staff Sgt. Christopher Barton, 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry

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Col. Bryan Howay, commander of the 75th Troop Command passes the colors of the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry to Lt. Col. Thomas Black during a change of command ceremony in Barbourville, Ky., Oct. 3, 2015. Black took charge from Lt. Col. Joseph Lear who led the battalion since 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Barton)

BARBOURVILLE, Ky. — Lt. Col. Thomas Black took charge of of the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry during a change of command ceremony in Barbourville, Oct. 3. Black succeeded Lt. Col. Joseph Lear who has led the battalion since 2013.

Brig. Gen. Charles Jones, Kentucky’s deputy adjutant general, joined friends, family members and Soldiers of the battalion in welcoming Black and congratulating Lear on a successful run as the unit commander. In addition, five former battalion commanders and one former command sergeant major of the unit were in attendance, a testament to the legacy of the Mountain Warriors within the Kentucky Guard and the commonwealth.

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Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew Roberge presents Lt. COl. Joseph Lear with a framed collection of the guidons of the 1st Battalion,, 149th Infantry during a change of command ceremony in Barbourville, Ky., Oct. 3, 2015. Lear commanded the unit since 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Barton)

“Being here in this moment at this place is nothing short of surreal,” said Black. “I couldn’t help but be reminded of the leadership over the past 3 decades that I have been blessed with, the history I have shared with this battalion, and the heritage that at this very moment I am inheriting.”

Black has served in the Kentucky Guard for more than 30 years, most recently as the operations and planning officer for the 75th Troop Command. As a traditional Guardsman, Black owns and operates a real estate firm in Southern Kentucky.

Lear, who called the chance to lead the battalion the best job he’s ever had, will move to the 75th TC as an operations officer. Black said the battalion has a legacy of great leadership and the last two years were indicative of the same under Lear.

“This battalion is the best combat arms battalion in the Army National Guard. It will remain that way and continue to lead the way. We will emphasize our efforts on near term challenges, constantly evaluating who we are, where we are with respect of who we want to be and where we want to be in respect to long term goals.”

Col. Bryan Howay, commander of the 75th TC called Black a very diverse leader, considering his roles as a Soldier, the father of a Soldier and a local businessman, “there’s nothing he can’t relate to.”

“My most honorable character is being a Dad, my 2nd most honorable character is being a Untied States Army Infantry officer proudly serving in the Kentucky Guard,” said Black. “And now my most honored position while wearing this uniform is commander of the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry.”

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Lt. Col. Joseph Lear presents Sgt. Daniel White with the Soldier’s Medal in Barbourville, Ky., Oct. 3, 2015. White received the award for his actions in saving a motorist’s life in an automobile accident in Frankfort, Ky., in 2014. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Barton)

In addition to the change of command, the Mountain Warriors also celebrated one of their own with a prestigious honor. Sgt. Daniel White was presented the Soldier’s medal for his actions in helping to save the life of a motorist involved in a fiery automobile accident in January of 2014.

“This means a lot to me, to be recognized for the award,” said White. “It’s not the recognition that any of us were looking for though, the main priority was that Mr. Burdett was out of harm’s way and we did everything that we could do for him. We were lucky enough to be in the right place to put our training in effect and do what anybody in that situation would have done.”