By James Brabenec, Fort SillJune 21, 2012
The 434th Field Artillery Brigade welcomed a new commander during a change of command ceremony June 12 at Rinehart Fitness Center.
Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, accepted the unit colors from outgoing commander Col. Gregory Dewitt and passed them on to Col. Michael Dvoracek signifying the change in leadership.
"We're excited to welcome Colonel Mike Dvoracek and his family back to Fort Sill," said McDonald. "Mike is the right person to ensure our basic trainees continue to arrive at their units with the capabilities and skills needed for those units to continue to succeed. You're inheriting a fantastic team and I'm confident you'll continue to build on that tradition of excellence."
Dewitt departed Fort Sill having guided the brigade for two years. He is headed to Afghanistan where he will serve as the chief of staff for the deputy commander of the Army/NATO training mission.
McDonald first recognized the Soldiers and leaders gathered for the ceremony and thanked the cadre of the 434th FA Brigade for their talent and dedication in which they serve.
"To our basic trainees, thank you for stepping up to serve your country, you should be proud of yourselves because you chose to be something bigger than yourself. We're proud to have you amongst our ranks," said the general.
McDonald also expressed his appreciation to all the community leaders in attendance for their partnership efforts supporting Fort Sill.
In an army that prides itself on recognizing the contributions of its families, McDonald acknowledged them, especially the families of Dewitt and Dvoracek.
"Thanks for what you do, we understand that the families are the strength of our Soldiers. Thank you for the support you provided for these two outstanding officers that allowed them to perform in this excellent manner over all these years," he said.
McDonald said teamwork defined the day and what the brigade is all about. He said the brigade's accomplishments where outstanding in the two years Dewitt commanded.
"Over the last two years the 434th Field Artillery Brigade has transformed over 33,000 civilian volunteers into Soldiers our warfighting units need. These Soldiers that he's trained graduated as disciplined, physically and mentally fit Soldiers who were excited to serve our Army and becoming part of our profession," he said.
The general said the training the 434th executes daily incorporates lessons the Army has learned in the last 10 years of war. It also grounds Soldiers in basic soldiering skills that have historically allowed the Army to dominate any other.
McDonald said operating the brigade with its incredible responsibilities took more than just a great brigade commander.
"Greg was a masterful team builder and grew a team that was grounded in our profession's bedrock -- trust," he said. "His emphasis on leader development programs for all his cadre -- active, Reserve and civilian -- and family members and single Soldiers programs that he instituted helped everyone understand that all were important members of this unit.
He added the excellence Dewitt established in the brigade make it the best training brigade in the Army.
"Greg, thanks for your leadership and vision you provided to the brigade and to Fort Sill. Our Army and nation are fortunate that you will continue to serve," said McDonald.
Dewitt then thanked his family, especially his wife, Kim, for being the strength of their family. Speaking of his years commanding the brigade, he said it was "an honor and a privilege serving with these fine Soldiers standing before you."
He mentioned the young citizen volunteers who joined the Army and trained at Fort Sill during his command and commended his brigade team for not experiencing any serious heat related injuries during the severely hot summer in 2011. Even as the brigade trained up these future Soldiers they activated and deactivated one battalion each and moved an entire battalion from one starship to another.
"I can only sum up what you've accomplished in one word: awesome. To the eight battalion commanders who made it all happen, past and present, the 55 battery commanders and the entire complement of cadre, especially the drill sergeants, thanks for your leadership, discipline and professionalism. The brigade's success is representive of your hard work," said Dewitt.
He wrapped up his remarks with a few words for the new commander.
"Kim and I wish you all the best, and I can tell you without a doubt you will enjoy the ride; this command will be very special," he said.
Dvoracek then stepped to the podium also thanking his family for their presence. He expressed his appreciation for the warm reception from Dewitt and Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Lindsey, 434th FA Brigade CSM, and for the condition of the brigade.
"You're making it easy to come in and take command," he said.
Dvoracek spoke of his attaining brigade command and said he is where he's at today because he worked with some of the best officers, Soldiers and noncommissioned officers in the Army.
"Their tireless and patient training and leadership guided me every day, and I thank them all," he said.
Dvoracek then turned his attention to the men and women arrayed before him.
"To all the Soldiers and families of this great brigade, from the command teams, drill sergeants, instructors and all the other cadre, to our newest volunteers joining the Army, thank you for your service and your sacrifice," he said. "I'm truly honored and humbled to be given the privilege [of this command], and I'm proud to serve within your ranks."
As the ceremony drew to a close, Dvoracek took his position at the front of the formation leading his troops in singing the "Army Song."