New commander, new era for 103d Chemical Battalion

Maj. Gary Barr receives the colors during a change of command ceremony for the 103rd Chemical Battalion, Sept. 13, 2020, held at the Burlington Readiness Center in Burlington, Ky. Barr takes command from Lt. Col. Jessicah Garrett-Somssich, who held the position since 2018 and will now serve the KYNG as the state Deputy Director of the G4. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Wood)


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

BURLINGTON, Ky.—The 103rd Chemical Battalion brings in the autumn season by saying farewell to one commander and saluting a new one, Sept. 13, at the Burlington Readiness Center in Burlington, Ky.

Outgoing commander Lt. Col. Jessicah Garrett-Somssich, who took command in 2018, said a genuine goodbye to the Dragon Battalion soldiers, remarking how proud she is to have the privilege to command the “best battalion in the Kentucky Guard.”

Click here to see more photos from the event.

She thanked members of her staff, her leadership, and her family. She also complimented the Guardsmen present at the ceremony as the best Soldiers she had the honor to work with during her 23 years of service.

Lt. Col. Jessicah Garrett-Somssich relinquishes command of the 103rd Chemical Battalion to Maj. Gary Barr at a change of command ceremony, Sept. 13, 2020, at the Burlington Readiness Center, in Burlington, Ky. Garrett-Somssich will continue serving the Kentucky Army National Guard as the state deputy G4. (US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Wood)

“Grow your teams, your replacements, and yourself,” advised Garrett-Somssich to each Soldier present at the ceremony, “It is an honor and a privilege to be part of this organization, so be proud!”

Garrett-Somssich will continue to serve the Kentucky Army National Guard as the state’s Deputy Director of the G4 (logistics).

She described the incoming commander, Maj. Gary Barr, as “a talented officer who will bring a fresh perspective and the right experience back to the battalion.”

Barr brings forth several years of the right experience. He served seven years as a seasoned U.S. Marine before the events of 9/11 inspired him to do more. He commissioned through Officer Candidate School at the Kentucky Military Academy and has since served in multiple leadership positions within the 103rd.

“I served in multiple staff positions, and as executive officer, platoon leader, and company commander; I enjoyed all my time in this battalion. I deployed twice and have worked with some great enlisted Soldiers and Officers while part of the organization,” said Barr. “Being the battalion commander will definitely be the highlight of my military career. I am honored to serve the Dragon Warriors in this capacity.”

Barr also has familiarity with the CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Packages (CERFP) mission. In 2011, he spearheaded the then-new CERFP mission as the company commander of the 301st Chemical Company. In 2012, his search and extraction company responded to the destruction caused by tornadoes in West Liberty, Ky. He quickly gained notoriety after SALUTE magazine, a national publication for the U.S. Armed Forces, nominated them as one of the top five units of the year.

“My previous experience with this battalion, its Soldiers, and its leaders have me coming into command feeling very confident,” said Barr. “The 103rd is a solid team and beyond qualified for any task thrown at them. This will make my job as commander a little less stressful to know I have the right people in the right positions for mission success.”

Lt. Col. Jessicah Garrett-Somssich relinquishes command of the 103rd Chemical Battalion to Maj. Gary Barr at a change of command ceremony, Sept. 13, 2020, at the Burlington Readiness Center, in Burlington, Ky. Garrett-Somssich will continue serving the Kentucky Army National Guard as the state deputy G4. (US Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Rebecca Wood)

Barr described himself to the battalion during the ceremony as a “servant leader” and hopes to do his part in setting an example and teaching his Soldiers how to be successful.

“My focus will be Soldiers first,” said Barr. “Getting the individual trained and both mentally and physically healthy is paramount. Soldiers can expect realistic training with some thinking outside the box. Tough, but fun. We need to develop the future leaders of the 103rd Chemical Battalion—enlisted and officers alike—so they are ready for greater responsibility. I want them to take care of each other and continue to improve our units.”

Members of the 202nd Army Band played the traditional music for the ceremony. In attendance was the Kentucky Army National Guard Deputy Adjutant General Robert Larkin, the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade commander, Col. Kent Cavallini, the 149th MEB Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Owens and Maj. Barr’s son, Tristan.

About kentuckyguard