FORT BLISS, Texas- Col. Geoffrey A. Whittenberg relinquished duties as the Commander of the 1st Armored Division (1AD) Combat Aviation Brigade (Iron Eagles) to Col. John A. Morris III during a ceremony at the 1AD Parade Field on June 22, 2022.
A change of command is a time-honored military tradition representing a transfer of authority for the command. The colors embody the history, traditions, and accomplishments of the command. The passing of colors from an outgoing commander to an incoming commander ensures that the unit and its soldiers are never without official leadership, represents a continuation of trust, and signifies an allegiance of soldiers to their unit's Commander.
Maj. Gen. Sean C. Bernabe, Commanding General of the 1st Armored Division, presided over the ceremony. He credited Col. Whittenberg for his unmatched leadership of a "Brigade in perpetual motion" and reflected on his accomplishments and responsibilities during his time at the CAB.
Before the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Bernabe presented Col. Whittenberg with the Army Legion of Merit Medal. His wife, Laurie, was presented the Yellow Rose of Texas for her service to the brigade.
Maj. Gen. Bernabe praised Col. Whittenberg's spouse Laurie during the award presentation by stating, "She is a leader in her own right. She was ever-present and showed up at every event, providing coaching, counseling, teaching, and mentorship to battalion command teams while caring for her family."
"The Iron Eagles were methodical, deliberate, they found small windows of opportunity, accepted risk, were audacious, and in the end, they set conditions for tanks in America's Tank Division to enjoy an easy fight," said Maj. Gen. Bernabe. "They could do it all because they had Geoff Whittenberg at the helm for the last 29 months. Geoff has proven himself naturally savvy in operating in a joint and multinational environment. He's proven himself gifted at multi-tasking. He's skilled as an aviator, an absolute expert at aviation tactics, and a warrior at heart. A warrior with a soft spot for soldiers and their families."
Maj. Gen. Bernabe listed many of Col. Whittenberg's accomplishments, including: five Combat Training Center (CTC) rotations, Defense Support for Civil Authorities (DSCA), deployment to Camp Atterbury, Ind. for Operation Guardian Response, real-world support in the fall of 2020 and 2021 for hurricane relief in Central America and Hurricane Ida respectively, Southwest border missions, while simultaneously supporting Joint Task Force North (JTF-N), U.S Army North (ARNORTH), U.S. Army Command (USARCOM), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), support for Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) at Dona Ana Village, Warfighter 21-4, and their current preparation for deployment to EUCOM.
Maj. Gen. Bernabe concluded his remarks by reflecting on the Whittenberg family’s service to the Division, "To Geoff and Laurie, many thanks for your leadership, commitment to our soldiers and their families, and hard work over the past 29 months. Safe travels to San Antonio, and we look forward to seeing you on the high ground."
Maj. Gen. Bernabe welcomed the new Commander to the Iron Eagle team. "What I think is more significant for us is that John comes to us with significant experience from Europe. He understands the environment inside U.S. Army Europe, Africa, and U.S. EUCOM, working alongside NATO allies and partners. I cannot think of a better person to come in and lead the Iron Eagles in the next chapter as they launch in support of the U.S. European Command."
Col. Whittenberg assumed command of the Iron Eagles on January 15, 2020; before that, he served as an instructor at the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS). His other assignments include Instructor for the Battalion Pre-Command Course and Tactical Commander's Development Course. In addition, he has deployed to Operation Joint Forge, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"When Laurie and I joined the Iron Eagles in January 2020, we had no idea of the adventure we were about to embark upon," said Col. Whittenberg. After Col. Whittenberg assumed command the Iron Eagles would go on to be tested through changes in strategic environments and operations during a worldwide pandemic. Over the last 29 months, his team accomplished tremendous feats that will culminate in their deployment to the European theater to bolster the support of allies and partners. Though Col. Whittenberg will not see the fruits of his labor fulfilled, he leaves confident that the brigade is in safe hands and will execute its mission like never before.
"This has been an extraordinary journey. I feel incredibly honored and humbled to have been able to hold the call sign - IRON EAGLE 6 - and serve in the most lethal brigade within America's Tank Division. Laurie and I are very proud of what this team has accomplished," said Col. Whittenberg. "I wish our team the best as they head to EUCOM to partner with and assure our allies."
Col. Whittenberg's next assignment is to serve as the General Staff Operations Officer (G3) of Army North (ARNORTH) in San Antonio, Texas.
Col. Whittenberg concluded his speech by saying," Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my distinct honor and privilege to introduce to you the Commander of the 1st Armored Division's Combat Aviation Brigade, IRON EAGLE 6, Col. John A. Morris III."
A standing ovation met his exit, followed by applause throughout the parade field.
Col. Morris previously served as the Director of Aviation Platforms – Requirements Determination Directorate, Fort Rucker, Ala. Additional assignments include Senior Aviation Trainer at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, Commander of 1-3 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion (TF Viper) at Katterbach, Germany, and G3 Air, Army Aviation OIC, NATO Rapid Deployment Corps (NRDC-ESP) at Betera, Spain.
"Throughout my career, I have gotten lots of advice. One bit of advice that I'll stick to today is "keep it brief." In the short time I have been here, the Iron Eagles have accomplished an unbelievable amount of work. Their attention to detail and energy are inspiring," said Col. Morris. "I am honored to stand here and excited to serve you and your families as the commander of this outstanding Combat Aviation Brigade."
Special thanks to the 1st Armored Division Band and the Salute Battery for their support during the ceremony.
To view the ceremony live stream, please visit the 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade's Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/1ADCAB.