News: Tomahawks welcome new commander
By Sara E. Martin
Army Flier staff writer
FORT RUCKER, Ala. - The 1st Battalion, 14th Aviation Regiment, 110th Aviation Brigade received a new commander Friday at Howze Field when Lt. Col. Mark C. Gillespie assumed command of the Tomahawks.
Gillespie took command from outgoing commander Lt. Col. Bevin K. Cherot in a formal ceremony where Cherot thanked the many people who helped him in his duty as commander, and aided in the enduring excellence at “Bob Hanchey,” also known as Hanchey Army Airfield.
“I was completely dedicated to invocating a culture that we had to train our students to be able to get into a firefight and win, and win decisively for the ground commanders so we can keep our ground guys safe and bring them back home alive,” he said.
Col. Kevin Christensen, commander of 110th Aviation Brigade, said that Cherot’s training was more than developing pilot skills - he developed the future senior leaders of Army aviation.
“His legacy of lethal and versatile combat aviators will endure long after his change of command today,” he said. “As he assumes new duties at the Pentagon, his leadership will continue to be an important part of the continued success of Army Aviation.”
Cherot finished with a message to his former soldiers.
“Aviation is a dangerous and unforgiving business,” he said. “When I took command, I told you that every last one of you would be here when I left, and here you are. The best number that I can mention today is zero. Zero lives lost. And that goes to engaged, hard leadership.”
As Gillespie took command, Christensen took great comfort in knowing that the tradition of excellence of this unit will continue under his leadership.
“Mark is a proven leader whose commitment to excellence is well known. I know his experience will serve him well as the commander of the Tomahawk battalion,” said Christensen.
Gillespie graduated from the University of Central Missouri and was initially trained as an OH-58D Kiowa Warrior pilot. Gillespie has been deployed across several different continents, to countries including South Korea, Bosnia and Iraq.
He has held many different leadership positions such as platoon leader and assistant operations officer in 1st Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Bragg, N.C.; Troop Commander, 4th Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Polk, La.; and operations and executive officer for 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Drum, N.Y.
Gillespie said that when he woke up Friday his boots were a little heavier.
“Bevin, I promise I will do my best to carry on your legacy and take care of the soldiers and their families,” he said. “I know they will miss you. I am proud I have been selected to lead them.”
Looking forward to the challenges of command and partnering with the local community to continue the battalion’s quality of excellence is not the only thing Gillespie has been looking forward to.
“I was excited when I learned that I would be taking this command. I have been here before - 18 short years ago,” he said. “I went through the same battalion as the student training, and I am overjoyed to have this opportunity to command this great battalion.”
Gillespie continued by saying that the Tomahawk regiment has a stellar reputation throughout Army aviation and that he is confident that the soldiers will continue to excel and meet the challenges ahead.
“The next two years you will be my Family,” he said addressing his newly acquired troops. “And I pledge to you to give you nothing but my very best.”
The battalion trains more than 850 students annually and conducts all live fire aerial gunnery qualification at Fort Rucker.
The regiment conducts both primary and graduate-level flight instruction in various rotary wing aircraft, but the current mission of the Tomahawks is flight instruction in the Kiowa Warrior and Apache Longbow helicopters.