Col. Kent G. Solheim took command of the Lightning Brigade from Col Eric Flesch during a change of command ceremony at Victory Field June 29.
“It is my distinct honor to preside over today’s ceremony and to share this special day with two dedicated officers,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaelis, Fort Jackson commander, during the ceremony. He presided over the ceremony that saw Flesch pass the unit colors to Michaelis, who then handed them to Solheim. “Today’s passing of the colors represents the age old tradition of the transfer of the mantle of command, a turning of the page.”
The passing of the colors also signifies the “welcoming of an exciting command team,” he said.
“Col. Kent and Trina (Solheim) are the right command team to assume the mantle of leadership today,” Michaelis said welcoming the Solheim Family. The new commander’s “range of experiences give him the broad skills needed to lead the Lightning Brigade … He has served and sacrificed at the forward edge of freedom.”
Fort Jackson’s 52nd Commanding General said Solheim’s tenure here “will be challenging and it will be broadening.”
Solheim, who enlisted as a Cavalry Scout in 1994, is the “exact right person” to hand the reins of command, Michaelis said.
“What you will discover once again, is that when things are going right, they will lead you as much as you lead them,” Michaelis said. “And when that happens the Lightning Brigade becomes unstoppable.”
Solheim, who has had multiple operational assignments since graduating from Officer Candidate School in 1999, including numerous deployments with Special Operations Forces including as detachment commander in the 3rd Special Forces Groups’ Crisis Response Force. His most recent assignment was as the Military Assistant to the Distinguished Chair of the Combating Terrorism Center, Ambassador Michael Sheehan.
“Kent now commands under 1,000 cadre, and on any given day, this team leads anywhere from 4,000 to 7,000 trainees 24/7 except for a short break over the winter holidays,” Flesch said in his farewell speech.
Michaelis lauded Flesch for a “masterful performance by someone who has the knack to take difficult tasks and quickly make them easy for his Soldiers to execute.”
The mission of changing civilians into Soldiers was different over the past year as the pandemic affected how training could be accomplished.
“Our leaders said we had a new enemy and we were at war,” Flesch said. “While many stopped working, or others worked from home, you can’t quite do that for basic training. We had to fight that enemy head on, and we had to continue the mission … Many in this team have been at war before, but this was different. Just by being in the fight, they were exposed – they exposed themselves but many times their Family too. This enemy was attacking the home front at the same time – some teammates even losing Family and friends.”
Solheim thanked Michaelis and Flesch for their kind words.
Flesch is a “tough guy to follow,” Solheim said. “You know, battalion commander, G3, brigade commander – he’s got it figured out. You have left a legacy the general as already spoke about … You have lead this formation through the most challenging of times. All my respect to you, and all of my best wishes to you on your future assignment.”
Solheim also spoke of the professionalism he notices from unit cadre in action as he toured the brigade footprint with Command Sgt. Maj. Roberto Guadarrama, the 165th’s senior enlisted leader. The noticed a trainee having difficulty going over a high obstacle and the company first sergeant and unit cadre helping her through “what was a personal crucible for her.” They witnessed what he expected to “be a defining moment in that Soldier’s life.”
He said it gave him perspective because it happens every single day on Fort Jackson.
To view the ceremony in its entirety visit: https://www.facebook.com/165InfantryBrigade/videos/334016244840244