Fort Stewart, Ga. – Lt. Col. Joseph L. Handke, outgoing commander of the “BattleKings Battalion," 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, relinquished command on June 14 to Lt. Col. Benjamin Maher during the BattleKings' change of command ceremony on Cottrell Field at Fort Stewart. The BattleKings Battalion was the first battalion in the 3rd ID to complete modernization on its primary fighting vehicle platforms, the M109A7 Paladin howitzer and the M992A3 Carrier Ammunition Tracked.
“It’s powerful that we are here today surrounded by Warriors Walk where four fallen BattleKings are among the crape myrtle trees that serve as a living tribute to those who serve our nation,” said Handke during his address to the formation and guests at the ceremony. “I am so honored to stand here today in front of this distinguished group of BattleKings and tell our story. It has been an amazing time and you have all lived up to our motto, ‘Keep the Fire’.”
Handke is a native of Elkader, Iowa, and a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He has the loving support of his wife, Rachel, 11-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter.
“Over the last two years, we have deployed throughout Europe supporting Sparta’s combined exercise at Hohenfels," continued Handke. "We supported the Division throughout warfighters and numerous salute battery events. We took second place overall during both Marne Weeks; and were the first battalion in the Division to modernize our fleet; and built readiness by qualifying our cannon and radar platoons while continuing to provide fire support exercises to Sparta.”
Handke and his Family are moving to Austin, Texas, for his next assignment as a U.S. Army War College Fellow at the University of Texas.
“Today as we celebrate the Army’s birthday, we recognize these tremendous Americans and Soldiers," Col. Terry R. Tillis, commander of the "Spartan Brigade," 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, during his remarks as the presiding officer over the ceremony. "Joe, you love being an artilleryman and a Soldier; you love serving others and you are what a BattleKing is, you get results. You’ve done an excellent job and your leadership is why this battalion flourished under your command. Thanks for your investment and sacrifice. We’re proud of you and proud to have served alongside you.”
Maher is a U.S. Army Field Artillery Officer, a native of Santa Clara, California, and a graduate of the University of Oregon and comes to the unit with his wife, Stephanie, and three children. He and his Family are no strangers to the BattleKings Battalion and Spartan Brigade as he served previously as the commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 9th FAR, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID.
"We wish you a warm welcome back,” Tillis said in his closing remarks. “I’ll just ask you to lead by example, hold yourself and formation accountable for one another and your Families, and then continue to enforce standards. We are looking forward to seeing where you take this battalion next.”
Maher comes to the 1st Bn., 9th FAR, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID, after serving as the G5 Chief of Plans for the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the Army’s proponent for leader development, doctrine, and Army 2030.
“I would share some simple words from an American who has always inspired me, George Washington Carver," said Maher in his initial remarks as the new commander. "Start where you are, with what you have, make it meaningful, and never stop.”
Maher ended his speech with his head held high saying, “'Rock of the Marne', 'Send Me', 'Keep the Fire'.”