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    NY Army, Air units adapt change of command to pandemic

    NY National Guard's 153rd Troop Command conducts change of command via conference call

    Photo By Capt. Avery Schneider | Army National Guard Col. Jamey Barcomb gives his first address as commander of the...... read more read more



    Story by Eric Durr 

    New York National Guard

    BUFFALO, N.Y.--Two New York National Guard units—one Army and one Air—threw out tradition and adopted new ways to conduct a change of command during a pandemic on Sunday, May 3.

    With New York State in lockdown, and 3,600 Soldiers and Airmen deployed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the New York Army National Guard’s 153rd Troop Command, and the New York Air National Guard’s 174th Attack Wing went forward with planned command changes.

    However, they looked nothing like a “normal” change of command ceremony.

    The 153rd Troop Command, a brigade equivalent command in the New York National Guard’s 53rd Troop Command, is headquartered in Buffalo’s historic Connecticut Street Armory.

    The 153rd is the higher headquarters for 1,600 military police, engineer, logistics, and explosive ordnance disposal Soldiers located from Buffalo to Albany.

    Traditionally the commanders of the 153rd’s three battalions—the 102nd Military Police Battalion, the 204th Engineer Battalion and the 501st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion—would have traveled to Buffalo along with key leaders and brought along their units colors. Guests from across the state also would have traveled to Buffalo.

    The commanders and their battalion colors would fall in on the armory’s massive drill floor as the traditional transfer of the colors from the outgoing commander to the incoming commander took place in front of them.

    But with Soldiers involved in the COVID-19 response, and concerns about having too many people together in one place, leaders opted for a virtual ceremony.

    “Senior leaders in the Troop Command wanted to keep Soldiers focused on their critical mission, but knew they had to find a way to honor the outgoing and incoming commanders,” said Capt. Avery Schneider, the public affairs officer supporting the troop command.

    Brigadier General Jack James, the commander of the 53rd Troop Command and the presiding officer at the change of command, decided that doing the transition via conference call would be the simplest way to bring all his leaders together at once.

    So when Col. Michael Fowler, the commander of the 153rd since 2017, turned over the unit to Col. Jamey Barcomb they did it over the phone with the battalion commanders and key leaders on the line. Guests called into the conference line to be part of the ceremony.

    The commanders sat in front of speaker phones instead of standing at podiums. Soldiers delivered bouquets of red and yellow flowers to their spouses at home that morning instead of presenting them in front of an audience.

    And when it came time to transfer the Troop Command colors from Fowler to James and then to Barcomb, the brigade’s personnel officer narrated the process while participants followed along on briefing slides emailed out ahead of time.

    As the ceremony followed the traditional remarks by both men, a presentation of flowers to spouses, and the transfer of the troop command colors from Fowler to James and then to Barcomb, participants followed along on briefing slides that were emailed out ahead of time.

    In his remarks, Barcomb noted how unusual the event was.

    “These are unprecedented times, but the National Guard responses to times like these are not unprecedented, he said.

    Barcomb noted that the 153rd had more than 300 Soldiers mobilized for the COVID19 mission and was also overseeing pandemic response operations in western New York.

    “Throughout our history, as an organization, we have stood strong, remained ready and answered the call when needed,” he told those listening on the phone.

    The 174th Attack Wing, which flies the MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, opted for the traditional ceremony, but a much smaller one.

    With social distancing restrictions in place, the traditional ceremony in front of the wing’s 1,000 Airmen massed in formation was a no go, explained Lt. Col. James Hockey, the wing Public Affairs Officer.

    The wing leadership decided to conduct a traditional ceremony but in front of a much smaller group. Chairs were set six feet apart, participants wore masks, and everybody took care to obey health precautions as Col. Michael Smith turned over command of the wing to Col. William McCrink III.

    So on May 3, Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General of New York, still transferred the wing’s colors from Smith to McCrink, but he did it in front of only 20 people, not 1,000. The participants also made sure not to touch hands while transferring the flag.

    The ceremony was videoed and posted on YouTube and the Defense Visual Information Distribution System for the wing’s Airmen to view later.

    “You are an awesome family of professionals and patriots that I am proud to be part of,” McCrink said. “You put your country and your state ahead of yourselves and I am proud to serve alongside you.”



    Date Taken: 05.06.2020
    Date Posted: 05.07.2020 14:41
    Story ID: 369448
    Location: BUFFALO, NY, US 
    Hometown: BUFFALO, NY, US
    Hometown: SYRACUSE, NY, US

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