COL Bruce Parker, far left, accepts the brigade colors from MG Michael Ferriter, the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning commanding general, during the June 30 change of command ceremony. At far right is COL Daniel Kessler.

FORT BENNING, Ga. - The 198th Infantry Brigade installed a new commander June 30 - and bid farewell to his predecessor.

COL Bruce Parker took over the leadership post during a change of command ceremony at Sand Hill's Kannell Field. He replaces COL Daniel Kessler, who's retiring after 27 years on active duty.

MG Michael Ferriter, the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning commanding general, was the reviewing officer. He said Wednesday marked a significant milestone in the careers of "two great Infantry Soldiers."

"We call it a change of command ... (but) you win in the transition and the teamwork of individuals who are the best in the world," Ferriter said. "The life of a brigade is a journey and it continues, and the leaders come in, pass the baton without losing momentum ... and then continuing their part of the relay. At Fort Benning, it's everybody working together so that our journey is successful."

Parker, who arrived about 10 days ago, spent the past year attending the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.

"I feel blessed to be entrusted with the privilege to serve in such a great organization," he said. "Our mission is to transform civilians into disciplined Infantrymen ... for the operational force. My expectations are simple: for Soldiers to work as a team, take care of each other and take care of their families."

The 198th Infantry Brigade, which dates to June 1921, fought in World War II and Vietnam. Today, it supports the global war on terror by conducting one station unit training with five battalions, 29 training companies and a headquarters detachment. The brigade is among the largest in the Army and pumps out more than 20,000 Infantry Soldiers a year.

Parker was commissioned as an Infantry second lieutenant in 1985 through the ROTC program at Seattle University. He's led Soldiers in combat at the company and battalion levels in Panama, Iraq and Afghanistan. Collectively, Parker has spent almost four years on Middle East deployments.

Ferriter has recent history with the new commander. The two served together at Fort Bragg, N.C., where Ferriter commanded the 18th Airborne Corps and Parker was the unit's director of operations.

"He was my right-hand man," Ferriter said. "I'm confident he's ready to train and prepare Infantrymen to fight and win on the 21st-century battlefield."

Parker said a new commander's arrival always creates some uncertainty, but he promised a seamless transition.

"You can expect me to be visible, to challenge you to stick to unwavering standards and set the conditions which will allow you to do your mission," he said.

The 198th Infantry Brigade's sole responsibility is to "produce the most feared weapon in the world, a steely-eyed U.S. Army Infantryman," Ferriter told the audience.

During Kessler's command, which began in June 2008, the brigade graduated 40,000 Soldiers - enough for 10 brigade combat teams and four divisions.

Kessler helped revise instruction for marksmanship and combatives, concepts that were exported to all Army initial entry training centers. He also was a key player in Base Realignment and Closure-related construction and upgrade of Sand Hill training barracks.

Ferriter said Kessler provided the brigade with strong leadership and a positive command climate.

"Inspirational leaders show others what right looks like, and they make it a point to take care of their folks around them, to see to it that their subordinates succeed," he said.

Kessler, who was commissioned as an Infantry officer in 1983 after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point - where he played football for four years, deflected the praise.

"It's not me, it's the Soldiers standing on the field today," he said.

Since 2001, Kessler has served in various command or deputy positions at Fort Benning.

He admitted to "mixed emotions" as he prepared to leave the 198th Infantry Brigade and exit the Army, but praised his successor.

"Bruce Parker ... has an outstanding reputation," he said. "He brings a wealth of operational experience to the 'Brave and Bold' team, and I have no doubt he is going to take this brigade to bigger and better heights."

Page last updated Fri July 9th, 2010 at 13:16