JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., –Soldiers and Families of the 17th Field Artillery Brigade bid farewell to Commander Col. Brandon C. Anderson and welcomed Col. Thomas D. Murphy Jr. in a Brigade Change of Command Ceremony at Watkins Field on April 22.
The First Corps band rallied the ceremony along with pride that brisk morning as ‘Thunderbolt’ Soldiers, led by their commanders, and accompanied by their colors assembled across the field to culminate the past three years of Col. Anderson’s leadership.
The national flag waved alongside the unit colors, held by their guard in longstanding tradition. The families and friends assembled for the ceremony chattered as they sat, finally together, with appropriate safety considerations, in the first hopeful gathering since the strike of COVID.
The first round of the ceremony began as Col. Anderson was presented a hard-earned legion of merit as well as the ancient order of St. Barbara and his wife Gina was awarded the meritorious public service medal.
“Brandon is one of the first people that I met when I first got here at Warfighter and he was immediately impressive,” said Lt. Gen. Randy A. George, Commanding General of America’s First Corps, and reviewing officer of the ceremony. “He has been a calm unflappable leader; great with his troops. He is an incredible team player, willing to do anything to help out, taking care of his own.”
Col. Anderson, with 25 years of military leadership behind him, joined the ‘Thunderbolt’ Brigade in December of 2018 as they piloted the Multi Domain Task Force program participating in an exercise in Japan, concurrently maintaining a force posture to fight on the Korean peninsula. Anderson oversaw the shift from MDTF led through supporting agency, spectator and now force provider. The Brigade’s focus on Korea was redirected to Iran in January 2020, following the strike on Quds force leadership--which was a large Artillery battalion fight. The brigade has since transitioned back to the pacific and small expeditionary packages.
Gunnery was suspended two years ago, to cope with a housing crisis, was challenged to meet COVID restrictions last year, and was adjusted this year to deploy the I Corps’ first and only Vaccine Task Force.
“True readiness is balanced with flexibility for the unknown and an ability to lead change,” said Anderson. “One thing I’m truly proud of in this BDE is its ability to lead this change. From using watercraft to land a HIMARS on the island of Palau, to modifying existing comm’s equipment to support an ESP on the Aleutian Islands, just 200 miles from the Russian coast. The 17th has always prided itself on developing new ways to shoot, move, communicate and most importantly, gain a competitive edge.”
“I will never lose sight that there is no Artilleryman or woman in any army who wouldn’t trade places with the Soldiers in this formation in a second,” Anderson added. “It’s not necessarily the equipment, which is advanced, but finicky, nor the training facilities, which can be restrictive, it’s the leaders--the Noncommissioned officers through field grade leaders which make all the difference.”
Col. Thomas D. Murphy joined the storm of the ‘Thunderbolt’ Brigade alongside his wife Nora and his children Patrick and Lily, with 24 years of service and expertise, from his most recent assignment as the Deputy Chief of Staff for I Corps.