FORT SILL, Okla., May 28, 2020 -- Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a symbolic force welcomed their new leader during a change of command ceremony for the 434th Field Artillery Brigade May 22 at the Old Post Quadrangle.Despite the recent health crisis, the ceremony conveyed an optimism for the two years that Col. Mike Konczey commanded the brigade’s cadre toward achieving their vital mission to the Army of turning civilians into Soldiers.The ceremony began with words of prayer from 434th Brigade chaplain (Maj.) Gerald Sherbourne, who blessed the Konczey family as they depart for South Korea. He also lifted up the incoming commander, Col. Daniel Blackmon and his family saying, “We pray a warm welcome and every good blessing of home, friends, and traveling mercies as they PCS here.”Maj. Gen. Kenneth Kamper, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, officiated over the ceremony as he recognized the enduring significance of the event. Receiving the customary honors rendered to the ranking officer on the field, Kamper passed on those respects.“We missed something in the script because I defer honors to team Konczey and all the Soldiers of the brigade. They just look phenomenal. Thanks for pulling this together in a COVID environment. It’s smaller and dispersed, but who they are out there and who they represent is just a phenomenal team,” said Kamper.The general took in all the trappings of the ceremony recognizing each party for the part it played.Kamper thanked the 77th Army Band, the Army Artillery Half Section, the color guard, and everyone who helped put on the ceremony. “You all add an extraordinary touch of class to these events.”The general then spoke of the brigade drawing on the mission for which it was created. He said the unit began in 1942 as the 1st Tank Destroyer Brigade and that it landed on Utah Beach in Europe on July 11, 1944. Fast forwarding 65 years, the brigade was activated here with a basic combat training mission.“In our profession, we’re always connected to something bigger than ourselves. In the case of the 434th, I think those who have served in the brigade previously would be very proud and amazed by what this brigade has accomplished recently,” said Kamper.The general said over the past couple years this brigade has trained and transformed 30,000 civilians into Soldiers on the Konczey watch.“All that happened in a period of change during a design and implementation phase of a new basic combat training program of instruction. This program added more rigor, realism, and field training events. Combatives increased, we got more rifle marksmanship. All that change takes leadership, and, Mike, you’ve provided that leadership in an exceptional way.“I thank you for being such a great teammate and for your inspiring leadership over these two years,” said Kamper.The general then conveyed his appreciation for the role Konczey’s wife, Tamra, took on.“A source of strength in our Army is the support of our families. Tamra, thank you for your support and dedication to the Soldiers, the 434th family, and the Lawton Fort Sill community. Between volunteering in the USO and the Growing Spouses programs, you’ve served as a wise counsel and mentor in the family readiness group programs with wisdom and compassion and friendship and kindness we are ever so grateful,” said Kamper.He then turned his attention to the man who would carry the brigade forward to new achievements.“A strength of our Army is the ability to replace one great commander with another without losing a beat,” he said. “Today there’s no doubt the Army got it right again as we welcome Col. Dan Blackmon to the team of teams.”Kamper cited Blackmon’s combat leadership experience in Iraq and Afghanistan as proof of what he has to offer the Destroyer Brigade. He then welcomed Blackmon and his wife, Lisa.“Welcome to frontier living on an original frontier post. We’re so grateful you’re here,” said Kamper.