New man in charge of Kentucky MPs

By Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Wood, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade

Lt. Col. Timothy Starke (right) receives the battalion colors from Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Rowan during a change of command ceremony for the 198th Military Police Battalion in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 30, 2016. Starke relinquished command to Lt. Col. John Blackburn. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Wood)

Lt. Col. Timothy Starke (right) receives the battalion colors from Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Rowan during a change of command ceremony for the 198th Military Police Battalion in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 30, 2016. Starke relinquished command to Lt. Col. John Blackburn. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Wood)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An impressive turnout of Guardsmen, family members and friends gathered Oct. 30 for a change of command ceremony between Lt. Col. Tim Starke, and Lt. Col. John Blackburn at the 198th Military Police Battalion’s Headquarters, located at Bowman Field Readiness Center in Louisville. Starke, who looks forward to his new position as the state training officer with Joint Force Headquarters, said the ending of the six-year run with the battalion is also bittersweet.

“I am sad to leave, because when you are with a battalion like the 198th for so long, you become accustomed to the hot, cold and wet of the field with the MPs,” said Starke. “It becomes part of you.”

Though the ceremony marks a big day for both lieutenant colonels, Starke emphasized that the change of command wasn’t about him or Blackburn. Instead it was about the lineage, honors, espirit de corps and history of the battalion. During his six years at the battalion, Starke saw Soldiers there seize the initiative and show pride in their work.

“The 198th has stepped up and executed the most challenging and high-visibility missions of the Commonwealth,” he said. “When Kentucky leadership had a can’t-fail mission, great Soldiers from the Thoroughbred Battalion stepped forward and found a way to achieve it every single time.”

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Starke reflected on the missions they have completed and how they added to the legacy that is the 198th MP Battalion. He saw his Soldiers escort and pull security for the first ever Djiboutian delegation to Kentucky, the Director for the National Guard Bureau and the Gubernatorial election; show their skills at Thunder Over Louisville, Kentucky Derby and Riverfest; conduct detention operations at the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth; rescue citizens and clear roads through rain, snow and ice; as well as many other tasks and skill-honing opportunities.

“I have watched Soldiers from every MOS and background give selflessly to make the entire organization better, and there is no question in my mind that they have done just that,” said Starke.

“You hate passing the colors but if I want to pass the colors to anyone it would be to John Blackburn. He is such a smart, capable leader who brings experience from a long successful career.”

Blackburn, previously the executive officer of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, now assumes the role of commander of the 198th. The battalion consists of 6 subordinate units with approximately 800 Kentucky Guardsmen in its ranks and brings about new challenges for the officer.

“Some challenges I face here over the next several months will be changing force structure and transitioning to a new training focus for our Soldiers,” said Blackburn.

Blackburn comes from a well-rounded background with six years as an enlisted Soldier and 8 years as an Armor officer before transitioning to the Military Police branch in 2008. Starke and Blackburn actually completed the armor to MP transition course together in 2006. They also share the opinion that being a commander in the Kentucky National Guard isn’t a right- but a privilege.

“I am very excited about this new position,” said Blackburn. “Command is a privilege and it is something I always wanted to do. It’s a goal to command at every level. It validates my experience and training and I get to lead the most professional leaders and soldiers within the organization and make sure they have all the guidance and training necessary to make them a success.”

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