By Capt. Dave EastburnJune 22, 2009
TORII STATION, Japan - With the sun breaking through the clouds and waves lapping against the Okinawa shoreline, members of the community, Japanese and U.S. service members gathered at Landing Zone - Renegade here, to witness as the guardian of the skies over the Pacific, 1st Battalion, 1st, Air Defense Artillery "Snake Eye Battalion" held their historical change-of-command ceremony, June 17.
The responsibility of the command was passed to Lt. Col. Jen Eickhoff from Lt. Edward "Dusty" O'Neil, who held the job of battalion commander since June, 2007. The ceremony introduced Eickhoff as just the third commander and first female ever to hold the position since the organization's move from Fort Bliss, TX in 2006.
"Immediately upon receiving command of 1-1 ADA, Dusty and his leaders became the main effort for the entire 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC)'s area of responsibility," said Army Col. Jeffery Underhill, commanding general of the 94th AAMDC headquartered at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. "He created the necessary conditions to man, train and validate the readiness and support of the U.S. Pacific Command's war plans."
An openly emotional O'Neil thanked his many leaders who supported him through his tenure of command with the Snake eyes. "I have to thank my many battery commanders and First Sergeants, for without them I would have not been able to accomplish so much." said O'Neil. "I thank each and every one of you for your tireless effort and dedication to such an important mission."
Underhill went on to explain the complexities of the unique situation and environment of which O'Neil commanded. "Command at any level can be a challenge, but especially when you find yourself in command of an Army unit, on an Air Force base, on a series of islands that's been inhabited for years by Marines, and 4645 miles away from your higher command's headquarters," said Underhill. "This is not an easy task, but one that Dusty has embraced and excelled."
The Snake Eye Battalion is the United States' only forward deployed Patriot Missile Battalion in the Pacific Command area of responsibility. O'Neil has been responsible for the health, morale and overall wellbeing of over 400 Soldiers in addition to keeping a watchful eye over the entire country of Japan and its surrounding areas' airspace.
With the passing of the unit's flag, Eickhoff will now shoulder 1-1 ADA's mission and responsibility. Eickhoff comes to Okinawa from the Pentagon, where she worked air and missile defense requirements as part of the joint staff. When addressing her new battalion for the first time, Eickhoff expressed her excitement and eagerness for her new responsibility. "I'm honored and excited to be here on this beautiful island of Okinawa, and look forward to continuing the great working relationships with all of our joint and coalition partners." She continued by saying "I'm fired up about being the commander (of 1-1 ADA), and I can't wait to serve together as we build the bond through so many established successes of our organization."
Underhill reinforced his utmost trust and confidence in his newly appointed battalion commander. "Lt. Col Eickhoff has been trained for this opportunity her entire career, she defiantly knows Patriot, and she defiantly knows the air and missile defense contribution to the joint fight," said Underhill. "She was selected to command Soldiers because she's the very best officer and warrior to lead this Battalion."
The former commander, O'Neil, will be heading to Fort Sill, Okla., where he will serve on the staff of the commandant of the new Air Defense School at the Fires Center for Excellence.
"1st Battalion 1st Air Defense is not only the standard and example of what right looks like for the entire air defense community, but is also crucial in the missile defense of the Pacific and will continue to remain vigilant against any threat to our allies or the United States," said Underhill. "I am confident that Jen Eickhoff was the perfect selection for this job."