FORT HOOD, Texas (June 19, 2017) -- Soldiers with III Armored Corps' only Military Intelligence Brigade bid farewell to the brigade's Command Sergeant Major and welcomed the incoming top enlisted leader during a Change of Responsibility ceremony, June 16, at Always Ready Field on West Fort Hood.

Command Sgt. Maj. Ryan M. Hipsley relinquished responsibility of the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade to Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas J. Baird during a morning ceremony at the unit's parade field. Hosted by the Brigade Commander, Col. Laura Knapp, the ceremony represented the pride, discipline and teamwork of the Army, while also fostering unit pride, esprit-de-corps, and preserving tradition.

CSM Hipsley, who served with the 504th since October 2015, was the brigade's Senior Enlisted Advisor during a significant transformation period for the unit. Previously known as the 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, the brigade converted to an Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade as part of the Army's transformation efforts. As the senior Noncommissioned Officer in the 700-Soldier formation, the brigade command sergeant major not only serves as the principal advisor to the commander, but also to execute the commander's vision for the brigade.

Hipsley said the change required new ways of thinking due to the brigade's reorganization to a Military Intelligence-centric unit.

"The 'Always Ready' brigade today is not the formation I came to 20 months ago. We embraced our most basic mission command functions, training and organizational future following the Battlefield Surveillance Brigade transformation, revisiting achievements and successes to find new ways to exploit and build upon them for the future," Command Sgt. Maj. Hipsley said at the ceremony.

CSM Hipsley also praised the brigade's visionary helm that was directed by the two commanders he served alongside with as the Senior Enlisted Advisor.

"This blending of historical expertise and innovation is reflective in the formation today because of two visionary brigade commanders -- Col. Ryan Janovic and Col. Laura Knapp," Hipsley said. "They forced us to lean forward, out of our comfort zones and dare greatly."

The outgoing Noncommissioned Officer, who is retiring after 23 years in service next March, said it was not fitting to "dwell on the bitterness of leaving," since that is often part of military life and leader transitions. However, he focused on what made him proud as a Command Sergeant Major. Both in garrison, and in their primary job as Military Intelligence professionals, the 504th's Soldiers consistently lived the Army Values and were honorable at all times, he said.

As their primary mission during his tenure, 504th Soldiers provided crucial real-world intelligence support to III Corps and the U.S. Army.

"On the other side of the spectrum, Soldiers execute ongoing intelligence support operations, providing tangible and actionable results to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan from both here at West Fort Hood and Fort Gordon, Georgia," Hipsley said.

The Change of Responsibility is a simple, yet traditional event that is filled with symbolism and heritage. The key to the ceremony is the passing of a ceremonial sword, known as the M1840 Army NCO sword. The 42" steel-bladed sword is a ritualistic tradition among NCOs, and was adopted by the U.S. War Department in 1840. Nowadays, exchanging the ceremonial sword is common between outgoing and incoming Command Sergeant Majors.

CSM Hipsley first received the sword from 1st Sgt. Antoniette Juarez, who served as the brigade's Colors Sergeant, then examined it with a stern inspection, and passed it to Col. Knapp. Knapp then passed the sword to Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Baird, who then passed it back to 1st Sgt. Juarez. The passing of the sword symbolizes the transfer of command responsibility and authority, and helps to reinforce NCO authority in the Army, while also highlighting the support NCOs provide to the chain of command.

CSM Baird, who has served in the Army for 24 years, previously served as the U.S. Army Special Operations Command G2 (Intelligence) sergeant major. Before that, he served in various positions in the Special Operations community, and has deployed to nearly every combatant command theater of operations. His wife, Sgt. Maj. JoAnn Naumann, is currently deployed, but will soon return to Fort Hood to assume responsibility for the 15th Military Intelligence Battalion.

During his remarks, CSM Baird said his experience has taught him to respect the past while being mindful of what is to come. To do so, requires individual and collective discipline across many aspects, he said.

"I have come to realize that we must always be mindful of our past while remaining watchful of our future. The past is our foundation that keeps our organization steady as we shape our tomorrow; our tomorrow will see us across multiple battlefields as we bring this nation's enemies to justice," Baird said. "To accomplish these missions, we must continue to be disciplined in thought, word, and deed."

CSM Baird charged every leader in the brigade to train "our Soldiers to master their technical skills and tactical fieldcraft," while also enabling "warfighters to shape, influence, deter, and if necessary, decisively engage our enemies," he said.

Baird takes on a sizeable responsibility as the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade prepares for an upcoming overseas combat deployment supporting III Corps this fall.