Durable Brigade leadership changes hands
February 13, 2009
Fort Riley - Soldiers of 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, participated in a ceremony for a full command team change Feb. 9 at King Field House on Main Post.
Col. Kevin O'Connell, commander, 1st Sust. Bde., handed over command of the brigade to Col. Flem B. "Donnie" Walker Jr.
With music provided by the 1st Inf. Div. Band, dignitaries and special guests from the Central Flint Hills Region and Army leaders sat in chairs on the field house floor, while Soldiers and friends filled the balcony bleachers.
O'Connell accepted the brigade's unit colors from his brigade command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Cardoza. O'Connell then passed the colors to Brig. Gen. Perry L. Wiggins, commanding general of 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley.
As is tradition, Wiggins handed the colors to Walker, who passed them on to Command Sgt. Maj. Eugene Thomas, Special Troops Battalion command sergeant major. Thomas was filling in for incoming Command Sgt. Maj. Miguel Rivera, who was not able to attend the ceremony because of temporary duty elsewhere.
As early morning rain and strong winds hammered against the windows of the field house, Wiggins moved to the podium.
"Today's a bittersweet day, not because of weather, but because we're going to say goodbye to an incredible command team," Wiggins said. Making the day sweet, he said, was the command team replacing O'Connell and Cardoza.
"Donnie (Walker) is the kind of person you'd want following in your footsteps, because he's going to take what you've done, and he's going to build on that."
Wiggins also took a moment to say goodbye to Cardoza, who is completing 31 years of Army service.
"And in this Year of the NCO, the noncommissioned officer, I think it only right that we recognize Command Sgt. Maj. Cardoza, and we extend to him a round of applause."
O'Connell assumed command of the 1st Inf. Div. Support Command in Kitzingen, Germany, which reorganized to the 1st Sust. Bde. at Fort Riley and deployed to Taji, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"We want to thank everyone for your friendship and support before, during and after our deployment," O'Connell said in his farewell address.
As incoming brigade commander, Walker commended Soldiers and leaders of the Durable Brigade for their accomplishments under O'Connell's command. He also offered his guarantee to the brigade.
"Our philosophy will be based on leadership governed by common sense," Walker said.
Walker recently was a resident student of the U.S. Army War College, where he graduated with the Class of 2008. He is a veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, in addition to Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
Soldiers of the 1st Sust. Bde. began returning to Fort Riley in December 2008, following a 15-month deployment to Iraq. During its deployment, the brigade oversaw logistic, financial management and human resource operations throughout the greater Baghdad area.