By Fort Sill Tribune staffJune 28, 2018
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (June 28, 2018) -- The 434th Field Artillery (FA) Brigade colors, which represent authority, changed hands between command teams during a change of command, and responsibility ceremony June 25, at Polo Field here. The brigade performs the basic combat training mission, one of only four brigades in the Army to do so.
Incoming commander Col. Michael Konczey took the reins from Col. Lee Overby; and incoming Command Sgt. Maj. Donald Harding relieved retiring Command Sgt. Maj. Royal Curtis II.
Konczey, a cavalry and armor officer, most recently served as the director of the Training and Doctrine Command's Capability Manager for Echelons Above Brigades (TCM-EAB) at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Harding, a cannon crewmember and former Fort Sill drill sergeant, came from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., where he was battalion CSM for 1-37th FA.
Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, Fires Center of Excellence (FCoE) and Fort Sill commanding general, officiated the ceremony. He extended a welcome to the Konczeys and Hardings, and thanked the Overbys and Curtises.
Shoffner said Konczey had huge responsibilities at TCM-EAB.
His office managed how Army divisions and corps fight in large-scale combat operations, Shoffner explained. "Mike's experience there and his insights where he helped shape where the Army's going to go in the future will be very valuable (here)."
The general noted that Konczey and Harding have hit the ground running because the summer surge of new trainees has already begun.
Shoffner recounted some of the numerous initiatives and efforts during Overby's two-years of command:
-- performed 175 cycles of basic combat training, graduating 33,106 Soldiers;
-- initiated the Drill Sergeant and Marksman Instructor Course;
-- created the Operation Mungadai fitness challenge for cadre;
-- improved drill sergeant certification; and
-- developed one standard in all areas across the brigade.
Shoffner was emphatic about how difficult, and important what the 434th FA is charged to do: create Soldiers in under 10 weeks.
"We have five battalions, we have a lot of trainees in cycle, especially in the summer. It is hard, it is a huge leadership challenge.
"The things that they dealt with eclipses anything that I've done in my career as a battalion, or brigade commander," the general said. "The demands on the leaders in this organization are significant, and Lee (Overby) has led exceptionally well."
Shoffner asked the audience to applaud all the Soldiers in formation, which included hundreds of basic combat trainees. Overby moves to a joint staff position in Washington, D.C., a competitive, nominative position and only the best are selected, Shoffner said.
Konczey said he was super excited to be here.
"This is the best mission ever. We take civilians and we transform them into Soldiers," he said. "There's nothing better, especially right now as we're growing our Army."
Afterward, Konczey described himself as a team player, and as a leader who likes to get as much buy-in as possible.
"With mission command, I think commanders are establishing relationships on trust," he said. "I deliver clear intent and empower them to execute within the intent. I've been doing that my whole career."
Harding attended basic combat training and advanced individual training at Fort Sill in 1990. He also had an assignment as a drill sergeant here with 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery from 2005-07.
"I feel this is home," Harding said. "I started here over 28 years ago. To come back here at this level, I feel extremely honored."
Speaking about his leadership style, he said: "The Army is a people's organization, so I'm all about the team -- bringing the team in, sharing ideas and learning from one another."
Before the ceremony, Overby was presented the Legion of Merit Medal by Shoffner. Overby said the recognition was for all the 434th FA Brigade people.
"It's for my Soldiers, my great NCOs, the cadre, the drill sergeants, the great battery command teams, the battalion command teams, the staff, the DA civilians, and, of course, our great contractors."
The colonel's wife, Melissa Overby was presented Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's Commendation, and the Alice Grierson Award for Excellence for all she did for service members and families in the community.
In his speech, Overby thanked numerous Soldiers and civilians.
"I have been blessed by some phenomenal battalion command teams," Overby said, naming each commander. "You and your command sergeants majors are exceptional leaders. I want to personally thank each of you for your high standards and commitment to the mission.
"To the 26 battery command teams both past and present, thanks for all your hard work and efforts in getting after training Soldiers, and taking care of your people," Overby said.
The drill sergeants and NCOs of this brigade are symbols of expert, but most importantly the epitome of the Army as a profession, Overby continued. "Your impact in establishing a foundation for each of these trainees is enormous, six and sometimes seven days a week you have this difficult task."
Concluding, Overby thanked Curtis, who he earlier had presented with the Legion of Merit Medal.
"I could not have asked for a better right hand man," Overby said. "He is an absolute professional who understands standards, understands regulations. He's really been an inspiration to me."
After 31 years of taking point for America, Curtis is retiring and moving to Charlotte, N.C. Before he was the 434th FA Brigade CSM, he spent two years with the 434th FA's 1st Battalion, 79th FA as its CSM.
"It's been pretty exciting," said Curtis, reflecting back on his career. "I've enjoyed all the relationships with numerous people, and agencies, and civilians that I've worked with over the years."
And there were the deployments.
"I deployed to Desert Shield/Desert Storm. I went to Somalia, Iraq several times, Kosovo," he said. "I went to Korea, which was one of my better assignments because we were strictly focused on training the whole time I was there."