By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 22, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 223rd Aviation Regiment welcomed a new commander and bid farewell to his predecessor during a change of command ceremony on Howze Field June 16.
Lt. Col. Christian M. Mariani assumed command from Lt. Col. Paul E. Berg as the unit colors passed from Berg to Col. Kelly E. Hines, 110th Aviation Brigade commander, to Mariani during the ceremony.
"As I look over this formation of Army Aviation expertise, I'm humbled to be standing here, and truly appreciate the opportunity to lead this awesome organization and have an influence on the future of Army Aviation," said the incoming commander. "Transition is never easy, but the Soldiers in this battalion have made the process smooth."
Mariani comes to Fort Rucker with a wealth of experience from his most recent assignment as the operations officer for the U.S. Army Joint Test Element in Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland.
He enlisted in the Army in 1990 and has held numerous leadership positions -- from executive officer to company commander -- and served all over the world, including Germany, as well as in multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hines said it's that breadth of experience that gives him confidence that Mariani will take on the awesome responsibility of leading the battalion to great heights, just as Berg did.
The 1st Bn., 223rd Avn. Regt., is organized into four line companies, a Headquarters and Headquarters Company and an Army Air Ambulance Detachment. With the mission to coordinate and conduct flight instruction and operation at Cairns Army Airfield, Shell Army Heliport and Knox Army Heliport, the responsibility of command of the battalion is not something that should be taken lightly, according to Hines.
"The battalion is responsible for five different aircraft, MedEvac, two base fields and an Army airfield," said the brigade commander. "Most don't realize the caliber of leadership it takes to make the 1-223rd function on a daily basis. With that kind of impact, it's no surprise that the Army picks the very best to be the battalion commander.
"Paul, you epitomize the assertive leader that we all wish to be, and you kept me sane on more than one occasion - It's been an honor to serve alongside you," he continued. "Losing a great command team is always a hard pill to swallow and, as is the Army way, the departure of one leader [brings] the arrival of a new one. I could not have asked for better than the Marianis. I can already tell that team Mariani will build upon the incredible track record of the 223rd."
Berg echoed Hines' confidence.
"In the past two years, we've safely flown over 2,000 students over 100,000 flight hours and have done it professionally every day. I'm deeply amazed every day … at how these men and women serve the battalion, Fort Rucker and our Army," he said. "Chris and Vicki, I'm excited for you and couldn't be happier than to be leaving the Spartan team in your care. I know you will succeed at leading this amazing battalion to new and higher heights."