Like father, like son, new Garrison Training Center commander shares his story

Brig. Gen. Robert Larkin, Kentucky’s Deputy Adjutant General, passes a flag to Lt. Col. Joe W. Warren, Jr., Sept. 11, 2020, at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center, Greenville, Ky. Warren took command of the Garrison Training Center. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Shanna Rice)

By 1st Lt. Cody J. Stagner, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

GREENVILLE, Ky. — Col. Joseph D. Lear relinquished his command of the Garrison Training Center to Lt. Col. Joe W. Warren, Jr., during a change of command ceremony Sept. 11, at the Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center (WHFRTC) in Greenville.

Lear commanded the GTC since September 2017 and will transfer to Joint Force Headquarters.

“I came here with one main theme, ‘Finding a way to yes,’” said Lear. “I wanted to say yes to each training request. So, together, we made some changes to improve. We improved how we do business, how we take care of our training sites, and how we take care of each other.”

Click here to see more photos of the event.

Addressing Warren, specifically, Lear added, “You are getting a very strong unit. Tell them what you want the end state to be and let them amaze you. They will give you more than you can imagine.”

The GTC Command encompasses WHFRTC, the Harold L. Disney Local Training Center in Artemus, and the Hidden Valley Local Training Area located just west of Stanton.

For the Warren family, it was an exciting and familiar moment.

If asked about his unique career that brought him this far, the training site’s incoming commander would say it has not all been so unique. He and his father, retired Col. Joe W. Warren, Sr., steered down many of the same paths.

Before the days of receiving each other’s emails by mistake, these old-school artillery officers similarly gained their ranks in the Kentucky National Guard. Each officer began in 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery, and both took command of the same 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery, though decades apart.

Warren, Sr., graduated from Federal Officer Candidate School (OCS) in 1969 and served in Vietnam as an Air Defense Artillery officer.

He branch transferred and joined the Kentucky Army National Guard when he returned home. The KYARNG assigned him to the 1-623d in Glasgow, Ky.

“Dad and I were in many of the same units,” Warren said. “First, I was a platoon leader for Bravo Battery, 1-623d, then the executive officer (XO) for Alpha Battery. I would have taken command of Alpha, just like Dad, if I hadn’t deployed to Iraq in 2005. Instead, my first command came with Bravo Battery.”

Col. Joseph D. Lear relinquished command of the Garrison Training Center to Lt. Col. Joe W. Warren, Jr., Sept. 11, 2020, at Wendell H. Ford Regional Training Center, Greenville, Ky. The flags rest at half-staff to commemorate Kentucky lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Shanna Rice)

After leaving artillery, each Warren took a different fork in the road.

Warren, Sr., a full-time Active Guard Reserve (AGR), served as the Recruiting and Retention Manager, then the Director of Military Personnel and Retirees, similar to today’s G1 Personnel directorate. He retired in 2000 with 32 total years in service.

Warren, Jr., an M-Day Soldier, went to the 75th Troop Command as the Brigade S4 (logistics officer) before taking command of the GTC.

He was fortunate also to maintain a successful civilian career. He retired with the Lexington Police Department in 2018 with stories to tell.

“The last seven years as a police officer, I worked on Mounted Patrol,” he said.

“We worked the Derby every year and provided a regular force at the Kentucky Horse Park with the World Equestrian Games. But mostly, we patrolled downtown Lexington.

“During a run of copper thefts in 2010, my partner and I pursued a robber on horseback. Well, I saw him cut through a street, then a backyard, but my horse couldn’t jump the fence. Further in pursuit around the corner, the horse did try to jump a crevice between pavement and grass, but he slid out into a Lexus SUV. He crushed it. Luckily, the horse and I were both okay.”

Before his commission into Field Artillery in 1998, Warren served in the Active Duty Army as an Aviation Huey Crew Chief for the 1st Cavalry Division. He deployed to Desert Storm with the Cavalry in 1990-1991.

According to Warren, his family’s military lineage goes back to most major world conflicts for at least 100 years.

“My mom’s great-grandfather fought in World War I,” he said. “And, my dad’s dad fought at Omaha Beach as a platoon sergeant. He earned a Purple Heart from an artillery blast. He nearly died. But he would tell us this story about his socks. They were required to swap socks every day. All two pairs. It put things in perspective for me.”

Warren himself deployed to Iraq twice, Djibouti, and Saudi Arabia to support the Iraq War in addition to Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

Growing up in a military family was normal to the Warrens. Young Joe Warren looked up to his dad but never sought the Guard as a lasting career.

“Dad never pushed the Guard on me,” said Warren. “It was actually my buddy and I that decided to join together. If anything, though, Dad talked me into going aviation. After active duty, I was thinking of staying out, but they offered me a bonus to join the Guard coming off active duty. Dad then influenced me to go artillery due to the many opportunities for advancement.

“I started OCS in 1996 and broke my hand. I had to restart OCS in 1997. This turned out better for me since I finished the 60 hours needed to be accepted in the OCS program, and it gave me a head start on the 90 hours I needed to commission.”

The Kentucky Guard gave Warren the opportunities he did not have and mentorship when he needed it most. It allowed him to diversify his career.

Besides commanding 2/138th FA, Warren adds several other leadership roles to his list. He served as Division Fire Support Officer, 38th Division Chief of the Joint Air-Ground Integration Center, the Chief Liaison Officer to the Royal Saudi Land Forces for the 149th Military Engagement Team, and Brigade S3 (operations officer) for the 75th TC.

“My top influencer would be Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Hogan, who served as my senior training officer while at OCS, but I can also thank Brig. Gen. Robert Larkin and Col. Brian Wertzler for their mentorship, which positively guided my career.”

“For my father, I owe the greatest deal. Throughout my career, I followed more by his example than his advice. Most of my command-style came from him. He was more laid back and used his intelligence to mentor his subordinates rather than belittle them. He gave me an excellent work ethic and taught me always to do it right the first time. He was a very detailed planner, and this is also who I am. This is the same message I would give to my troops. Keep your focus on a task, and the end result will be greater than what you planned.”

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