By Cannoneer staffJuly 5, 2012
As the new commander of the 428th Field Artillery Brigade, Col. Gene Meredith pledged his "untiring dedication and loyalty" to his brigade.
Meredith assumed command of the 428th FA from Col. John Drago, during a change of command ceremony June 29 at the Old Post Quadrangle here.
"John and Liz Drago -- thank you for a great turnover and the unlimited access to the 428th during the past couple weeks," Meredith said. "We couldn't have dreamed of a better transition."
During the ceremony, Command. Sgt. Maj. David Carr, 428th FA CSM, passed the unit colors to Drago, who then passed them to Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general. McDonald passed them to Meredith symbolizing the change of leadership. Then, Meredith passed the "Cornerstone Brigade" colors back to Carr for safeguarding.
The 428th FA is the cornerstone of the field artillery branch, according to the ceremony's program. It is where Soldiers, Marines and allied soldiers learn to become field artillerymen.
The 428th FA Headquarters and Headquarters Battery provides all administrative operations in the brigade, said program narrator Michael Simmons, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. The 2nd Battalion, 2nd Field Artillery, delivers Fires and performs logistical support to the FA School, and also provides ceremonial salutes here.
The 1-30th FA trains about 2,100 FA officers per year. The 1-78th provides advanced individual training for seven FA military occupational specialties.
Hundreds of Soldiers in 428th FA HHB and its three battalions stood in formation. Even mascots Sgt. 1st Class "Big Deuce VI" and Pvt. "Short Round V" representing the salute battery, B Battery, 2-2nd FA, participated in the ceremony.
The Fort Sill Field Artillery Half-Section and the 77th U.S. Army Band "The Pride of Fort Sill" as well as "Costello's Own" bagpipers were also involved in the pageantry.
McDonald said field artillery, the "King of Battle," has always stood firm.
"Since its founding in 1911, the keystone of our branch has been the field artillery school," he said.
It is an incredible honor to command the 428th FA, to be at helm of seven different schools: AIT, Basic Officer Leader Course, Captains' Career Course, Master Gunner, Meteorology, Pre-Command, and the Warrant Officer Course, McDonald said.
In welcoming Meredith and his wife, Sam, McDonald said the colonel was the right person to keep the brigade moving forward.
"With his extensive experience, he and his brigade will ensure that, like the enduring Old Post Quadrangle, we have the artillery leaders who will continue the Army's legacy of being the strength of the nation," McDonald said.
Meredith graduated from the University of Arkansas in 1989, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in field artillery. He has served in numerous leadership positions, and his tours include multiple combat assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before moving to Fort Sill, Meredith attended the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., according to the program.
McDonald praised Drago for his magnificent work during the past two years as brigade commander.
As a division commander, McDonald said he knew then-Major Drago.
"I had about 45 majors, and I picked out 13 that needed to be battalion commanders," McDonald said. "Number one on that list was John Drago."
Under Drago's tenure, the 428th FA implemented joint fires observer certification for lieutenants assigned to brigade combat teams, established a mentorship program for junior leaders, focused training across the brigade to establish core competencies in the branch, and trained more than 20,000 service members, McDonald said.
In his remarks, Drago said the ceremony was not about him or Meredith, but about the 428th FA.
"It has truly been an honor and a privilege leading this team -- a tremendous group of Soldiers, NCOs, officers and civilians, who relentlessly pursue the accomplishment of their mission every day," he said.
Drago thanked Team Sill and Lawton partners and Co-op organizations for their unwavering support and friendship to Soldiers and their families.
Concluding, Drago also thanked his wife, Liz, and their children.
"Liz, I can't scratch the surface on the thanks you deserve," he said. "Your consistent selfless committment and support to the leader development of our young spouses, and to the well being of our cornerstone families was incredible."