The 1st Brigade Combat Team and Brig. Gen. Harry E. Miller, senior commander of Fort Drum, passed the unit colors on to a new commander Thursday.
Col. Willard M. Burleson relinquished command of the “Warrior” Brigade to Col. Stephen Michael during a large change of command ceremony on Sexton Field.
Burleson has commanded 1st BCT since February 2009. His tenure of leadership included a deployment to northern Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom that brought him and the brigade back to the North Country just a few months ago.
President Barack Obama personally recognized the brigade during his first official visit to Fort Drum last month, thanking the Soldiers for being among the first to deploy after he made the difficult decision to send more than 30,000 additional Soldiers to Afghanistan during last year’s surge.
Burleson’s next assignment will be at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La.
Before handing over command of the 1st BCT “Warriors,” Burleson, who has known Michael for more than 25 years, expressed confidence in his successor.
“He is a great officer and a great commander, and I know he’ll do a great job,” Burleson said.
Before coming to Fort Drum, Michael was the Senior Service College Fellow to Columbia University. He previously served as regimental tactical officer for the 4th Regiment U.S. Corps of Cadets at West Point. Before that assignment, he commanded the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Michael deployed to Iraq with 2-12 Infantry from October 2006 to December 2007.
Michael began his career at Fort Drum as a platoon leader with 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade. With substantially more leadership experience and a broad assortment of assignments, he returns to the 10th Mountain Division (LI) to lead once again.
Soldiers of the brigade stood like statues out on the parade field during the ceremony as the 484th Army Band from Milwaukee, Wis., passed in front of their formations playing “sound off,” a tradition used in ceremonies since the founding of the Army. They continued standing in position as the reviewing party “trooped the line” to inspect the formations.
The reviewing party consisted of the outgoing commander, Burleson; the incoming commander, Michael; and commander of the troops, Maj. Michael D. Parsons.
Without reservation, the incoming commander referred to the brigade as “world-class” and nothing less. “On this day, my charge and my challenge to you is simply this: follow me and do as I do,” Michael said.