By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterApril 25, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (April 25, 2013) -- As clouds filled the sky and rain threatened to soak Soldiers standing in formation, Fort Rucker welcomed the new commander of the 1st Battalion, 212th Aviation Regiment.
Lt. Col. Raymond J. Herrera took the reins of the battalion from outgoing commander Lt. Col. Ronald L. Ells during a ceremony April 19 at Howze Field.
"We're here today to celebrate the accomplishments of the 1st-212th under the great leadership of Lt. Col. Ron Ells, and welcome Lt. Col. Ray Herrera to this great team," said Col. Kevin J. Christensen, commander of the 110th Aviation Brigade. "When we lose a great leader like Ron, we'd normally be very concerned, except for the fact that we are confident that the great leader we have coming in to replace him is going to pick up right where he left off."
Herrera served as Christensen's executive officer before taking command of the battalion, an assignment that he said prepared him to be a leader.
"Thank you for the opportunity to be your executive officer prior to taking command," he said to Christensen. "It's been a demanding but truly worthy experience, and I've learned a lot from you and appreciate your mentorship and support.
The new commander began his military career as a member of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets before he was commissioned May 15, 1994, as a Distinguished Military Graduate. From there, he attended and graduated from courses such as the Aviation Office Basic Course, Initial Entry Rotary Wing and UH-60A course, Air Assault School, Aviation Maintenance Manager's Course, Combined Logistics Officer Advanced Course and the Command General Staff College.
Herrera is no stranger to being a leader as he's held positions such as Alpha Company executive officer; C Co., Command and Control platoon leader; F Co., Army Airspace Command and Control liaison officer while assigned to 4th Bn., 227th Avn. Regt. in Fort Hood, Texas; and D Co., Aviation unit maintenance commander while deployed with the 3rd Bn., 158th Avn. Regt. in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"It does my heart well to know that the Wings of Freedom team will be in good hands with you at the helm," Ells said to Herrera and his wife. "I'm confident that you are the perfect team to take this great unit to the next level."
Ells will be transitioning to an MD-500 and moving on to Saudi Arabia where he will be training troops there, according to Christensen, who had nothing but praise for the outgoing commander.
"Ron led our transformation efforts. He helped us with our 40-day model where we were able to, through his efforts, optimize the amount of training simulation and synchronize our efforts, ultimately resulting in a 25-percent reduction in demand of our aircraft," said Christensen. "The real measure of what he's accomplished is not anything that we could give him here at Fort Rucker as an accolade.
"The true measure of what he's accomplished comes from the combat Aviation brigades that he served," he continued. "We continue to get nothing but the best feedback on the quality of the combat Aviators that this fine battalion produces."
Ells offered three pieces of advice to be successful in the Army profession before saying his final goodbyes. First, he said there is no way to be successful in the profession without a battle buddy. Second, he advised to "leave your foxhole better than you found it."
Third, he paraphrased a quote by Gen. George S. Patton, widely known as America's greatest combat general during World War II -- "Lead, follow or get out of the way."
"I'm thoroughly humbled and honored to have had the privilege of leading this great team, and I've learned so much following the great leaders here at Fort Rucker, but now's it's time for me to get out of the way," said Ells.
"It's truly an honor to take command of such an accomplished battalion," said Herrera. "You cannot ask for a better group of Soldiers, civilians or contractors to work with."