In the midst of COVID19, 149th Brigade conducts change of command

Story by: Sgt. First Class Rebecca Wood, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Public Affairs NCO

U.S. Army Lt Col. Kent Cavallini, 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade commander, passes the 149th MEB’s guidon to Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Owens, 149th MEB Command Sergeant Major, during a change of command ceremony at the 149th MEB’s Armory in Richmond, Kentucky April 15, 2020. Lt. Col. Cavallini enlisted in the Illinois Army National Guard in 1989 and gained his commission from the U.S Military Academy in 1995. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ryan Wilhoit)

RICHMOND, Ky.—In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kentucky Army National Guard’s largest major Army command, the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) bids farewell to one leader and welcomed its 27th brigade commander during a change of command ceremony April 15, 2020 at its headquarters in Richmond, Ky.

Due to the CDC guidelines on social distancing and cloth face masks, the traditionally large change of command ceremony was limited to the minimum amount of people. In attendance was Brig. Gen. Haldane B. Lamberton, The Adjutant General, who took part in the ceremony; a small population of Soldiers symbolizing each of the four battalions, the headquarters, headquarters company and the 613th Engineer Detachment that currently fall under the 149th MEB flag; the immediate family members of both commanders and one of the former 149th MEB commanders Col. (ret.) Jerry Morrison.

All attendees wore face masks and practiced safe social distancing during the ceremony, while many members of the military and surrounding community watched the ceremony via Facebook LIVE.

Incoming commander Lt. Col. Kent Cavallini served in the active duty Army for five years before joining the Kentucky National Guard in 2003. He previously served in the 502nd Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, the 238th Regiment and 149th Brigade Support Battalion. His deployments include serving as an infantry company advisor to the Afghan National Army and deputy commander for the 149th Military Engagement Team in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Cavallini said he saw his opportunity to serve as the new 149th MEB commander as a blessing enabled by the mentorship of many senior officers and incredible noncommissioned officers. He spoke about mentoring and training other Soldiers during the ceremony.

“Continue the great work you were doing under Col. Gardner,” said Cavallini. “Our priorities are commitment to the care of Soldiers, realistic combat focused training, maintaining our combat power, and further developing our units and ourselves in the profession of arms.  We must always keep ourselves and our units ready to meet any challenges our Commonwealth or the Nation calls on us to respond to.”

Outgoing commander Col. Joseph Gardner said Cavallini has earned the trust and confidence of his peers, subordinates and The Adjutant General.

U.S. Army Col. Joseph Gardner, outgoing commander of the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, gives a speech during a change of command ceremony at the readiness center in Richmond, Ky., Apr. 15, 2020. The change of command ceremony is a time-honored tradition that formally signifies the continuity of authority of command. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Ryan Wilhoit)

“I have known and worked with Kent Cavallini over the last eight years. I mobilized with him in support of Operation Spartan Shield in 2017, and he is a professional, the finest example of a Citizen Soldier that I can think of,” said Gardner. “He is an educator, husband, father, farmer and a warrior; he chooses to serve his country and the Commonwealth with pride while expertly navigating the responsibilities of civilian life. He is a clear choice to lead this brigade through this current pandemic crisis and beyond.”

Before he was the 26th commander of the 149th MEB, Gardner previously served in a number of command and staff positions in the Legion Brigade, to include mobilizations with the 201st Engineer Battalion and 206th Engineer Battalion. He also served as the Commander of the 103rd Chemical Battalion, CBRN Enhanced Response Force Package (CERFP) and the 149th MEB Military Engagement Team. Gardner said he is thankful to the professionals he worked with at the brigade he spent so much of his career in, and the families and support systems who back them.

“The opportunity to command this brigade was an honor and the highlight of my career,” said Gardner. “I am fortunate to have been surrounded by a team of professionals that have made this brigade the best of its kind in the Army. I want to thank the full time staff who keeps this unit always moving forward. Furthermore, every Soldier knows they can’t serve to their fullest potential without the support from family, church, employer, and community; I thank all for their support to the Legion Brigade. My wife and daughter are as much a part of the Kentucky National Guard as I am; they have enabled me to keep focused and retain my balance. I don’t thank them enough for their sacrifices. We are Never Defeated!”

Gardner currently serves as the Chief of Staff for the Kentucky National Guard and is proud of the Kentucky National Guard’s role in its missions across the globe.

“Legion Soldiers are currently serving around the world from defeating Islamic Extremists in Iraq to mitigating the effects of COVID-19 here in the Commonwealth,” said Gardner. “Truly Citizen Soldiers who represent the best Kentucky has to offer. The future of this brigade and National Guard is in great hands with unlimited potential.”

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