REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama – The U.S. Army Security Assistance Command conducted a Change of Charter ceremony for the Office of the Program Manager-Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program (OPM-SANG) July 28, 2021.
Brig. Gen Garrick Harmon, USASAC commanding general, hosted the event as the outgoing program manager, Col. John White, relinquished his duties to Col. Kenneth Burgess.
Harmon noted that although it was a change of command ceremony, it was less about change and more about continuity, and “the continued trust and unity we share bilaterally with USASAC, OPM-SANG and our Saudi partners in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
He praised White for his exceptional leadership during what could only be “qualified as the most challenging generational period in the world’s history….the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“During this unprecedented period, the entire world was at a stand-still. The globe faced economic, social and emotional paralysis; however, diplomatic and military opportunities continued to thrive largely due to (White) and the OPM-SANG team’s creativity and determination,” said Harmon.
He said OPM-SANG, under White’s leadership, successful coordinated the first female MP training course, oversaw the issuance and new equipment training of one Light Armored Vehicle variant, continued support to forward-deployed SANG combat formations, and executed Phase II of III for the aviation materiel fielding to complete an $11.7B foreign military sales case.
Harmon wished White and his family well as they move on to his next assignment as the executive officer to the deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Eustis, Virginia, “a position reserved for only the most talented officers in our Army’s inventory.”
During his remarks, White said his yearlong assignment as the OPM-SANG program manager “ranks as probably the best of my entire 24-year career.”
He thanked USASAC leadership for their support, and praised the OPM-SANG team for their dedication. He also spoke of his respect for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of the National Guard for their military professionalism and commitment to the “the improvement and protection of their country.”
Burgess will now serve as the organization’s 25th program manager. He comes to OPM-SANG from Vicenza, Italy, where he commanded the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne).
“I welcome this privilege and pledge to support your command, as we continue to provide our partners world class advising and materiel support,” said Burgess to USASAC leadership during the ceremony.
He thanked White and USASAC team members for their welcome and onboarding, calling it a stellar introduction to the OPM-SANG team and mission. Burgess said he is looking forward to meeting the OPM-SANG country team and “I look forward to supporting our Saudi partners in continuing to assist … the MNG’s transformation efforts as they achieve the goals of Vision 2030."
The ceremony was conducted as a webcast with viewers from throughout USASAC and the OPM-SANG office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The webcast was also available to dignitaries from the U.S. Embassy and officials from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of the National Guard and the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense.
OPM-SANG is a subordinate organization of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command, which executes the Army's security assistance and foreign military sales programs.