ADAZI MILITARY BASE, Latvia -- The 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, out of Vicenza, Italy, welcomed a new commander in a ceremony held here, June 29.
Lt. Col. Michael Wagner assumed command of the 'First Rock' Battalion from Lt. Col. Patrick Wilkins.
"What a unique opportunity we have here," said 173rd Airborne Brigade Commander, Col. Michael Foster. "If you would have told me back when I was a young officer that we would be executing a battalion change of command in Latvia, I would have had a hard time comprehending the circumstances that would have allowed that to happened. Yet, here we stand today."
Wagner, whose most recent assignment was as the Army Military Aide to the President of the Unites States, will now be commanding the battalion that was the first unit to deploy to Poland and the Baltic States in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve back in 2014.
"Being here today is truly a testament to the depth of our commitment and friendship," Wagner said. "Our mission is, and will remain, vitally important. I am truly honored and humbled to have the privilege of serving with these outstanding troopers during such a critical time in history."
The ceremony bid farewell to Wilkins and his wife, Rachel, who joined the 1-503rd Infantry Regiment back in June 2013.
"The burden of command was, is, and will always be costly," Wilkins said. "But the impact of command is fulfilling. The fulfillment of building a culture of high expectations that lever this world class formation to the tip of the spear and help transform the DoD enterprise and the way senior leaders think about the NATO alliance."
From its six-year tour in Vietnam to almost a decade of deployments to the Middle East, the battalion has maintained a high operation tempo and established many partners and allies over its more than 70-year history.
It is through such a history that the First Rock helps reaffirm strength in the NATO alliance; a strength that should not be understated, Foster said.
"Our presence here shows just how strong our partnership is with Latvia, both now and in the future," Foster concluded. "I am grateful for the fact that we are standing here in the face of Russian aggression.
Operation Atlantic Resolve is an ongoing, multinational partnership focused on joint training and security cooperation between the U.S. and other NATO allies.
Visit the Operation Atlantic Resolve website for up-to-date photos and information.