JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - A week of multiple change of command ceremonies for the 17th Field Artillery Brigade concluded with the change of command ceremony for Col. Andrew C. Gainey, as the outgoing brigade commander, to Col. Christopher W. Wendland, incoming commander, June 2, 2017 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
The brigade's week of ceremonies commenced with the Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment performing a change of command ceremony from Lt. Col. Frank M. Buchheit to Lt. Col. Joe D. Hansen, and a change of responsibility from Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Morales to Command Sgt. Maj. Shawn Connell, on May 30. Under Buchheit's and Morales's tenure, the battalion conducted multiple High Mobility Artillery Rocket System training exercises and a nine-month deployment to the Middle East.
During their deployment, and under their leadership, Sgt. 1st Class Zachery Wilkerson's achievements earned the Field Artillery's Edmond L. Gruber Award. It was given to Wilkerson for coordinating timely and accurate fire support in Iraq, his dedication to his soldiers and his professionalism.
The week of ceremonies continued with the 308th Brigade Support Battalion change of command ceremony from Lt. Col. Michael Labrecque to Lt. Col. Richard T. Basye on May 31. The battalion has maintained its steady support of the brigade's artillery battalions and of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery.
Gainey has commanded the 17th FA Bde since July 2015, being dual hatted as the commander for 17th FA Bde and the I Corps Fires Support Coordinator. He led the integration of the 17th FA Bde staff with the fire support staff of "America's Corps" formalizing the relationship for the first time. He also led the Brigade and I Corps fire support cell through combined, joint exercises Yama Sakura 69 and 71, Talisman Saber 15 and 17, and Ulchi Freedom Guardian 15 and 16. These exercises were paramount to increasing interoperability with key allies in Australia, Japan, and Korea.
Also, he oversaw the execution of the Reduced Range Practice Rocket noise test; the first training event in which rockets were fired on Joint-Base Lewis McChord. He also deployed both HIMARS Battalions in support of Central Command operations. Thunderbolt troopers fired over 600 precision munitions, eliminating numerous enemy facilities, vehicles, and equipment
"Brigade command has been an amazing journey for me," said Gainey, "I have been surrounded by fantastic soldiers and leaders since my first day in command. I only have to look out across this field and into the audience to see some of the finest professionals I have encountered in my career."
Gainey is succeeded by Wendland, who is coming from being the I Corps' Deputy G3/5/7. Wendland has served in various Field Artillery staff and leadership positions over his 23-years of military service with assignments in the continental Unites States, Korea, Germany, and Hawaii as well as two additional combat deployments: Battery Commander during the Iraq ground invasion (41st Field Artillery Brigade - 2003) and Infantry Brigade Fire Support Officer / Task Force Executive Officer in eastern Baghdad during the "Iraq Surge" (2d Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 2d Infantry Division and 2d Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment- 2006-2008). In addition, Wendland served for three years as a Combatant Command Joint/Interagency Crisis Response Planner in the Pacific developing plans for Foreign Humanitarian Assistance (Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Nepal, and Haiti), Maritime/Air Counter Proliferation, and Foreign Consequence Management / Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (Japan). He also served as a committee co-chair/planner for the U.S. - Philippines Mutual Defense Board/ Security Engagement Board from 2009-2011.
"We are excited today to join the Thunderbolt Team," said Wendland. "These incredible soldiers will continue to make a significant impact in today's world, they will deter an adversary from inflicting potential harm unto those we are entrusted to protect, and if that adversary is not deterred, they will answer our Nation's call without question or hesitation."
In the upcoming months, the 17th FA Bde will support Talisman Saber 17 and Operation Ulchi Freedom Guardian 17.
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