Story by Lt. Col. Cindi King
Photos by Staff Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine
EASTOVER, S.C. — A change of command ceremony was held for the 1-151st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, South Carolina Army National Guard, at the Army Aviation flight facility at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, Feb. 8, 2015.
During the ceremony, Lt. Col. James Fidler relinquished command of the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter unit to Maj. John McElveen, in front of hundreds of family and friends and a formation of Soldiers from the battalion on the flight line.
The change of command ceremony is part of military tradition as a symbolic passing of responsibility and accountability of the command. The battalion colors passing from one commander to the next, symbolize continuity and the reminder that although members of the unit may fall in battle, the colors live forever with the current members of the unit.
“You have been absolutely selfless, you and your families have endured so much to serve this nation,” said Fidler, who has been in the unit for 25 years. “In face of personal hardship and great uncertainty about our unit’s future, you have trained hard and stayed the course.”
National Guard units that have AH-64D Apaches, like the 1-151st ARB, are currently being looked at under the Army Restructuring Initiative, which proposes these assets be transferred out of the National Guard states and placed at the federal level, active component.
“The enemy does not care about ARI and they are not going slow down their beheadings and torture,” said Fidler. “It is not a matter of if this unit is called, it is a matter of when. I know you will be ready and I know you will continue to honor our great legacy.”
The 1-151st ARB has had multiple combat deployments since the attacks of 9-11, including to Iraq when they were the last Apache unit to leave Iraq during Operation New Dawn, providing over watch to military units leaving theater. In April of 2012, the 1-151st ARB was the first AH-64D unit in the U.S. Army to become Deck Landing Qualified, and has trained active component Apache pilots on overwater operations.
“As we go forward, we are charged with remaining the most relevant attack helicopter battalion in the nation,” said McElveen. “U.S. military troops are back on the same sovereign ground in Iraq you left just three years ago. Now is not the time to let our guard down.”
The unit, comprised of more than 400 Soldiers, has received many awards that includes the Army Meritorious Unit Citation and Army Valorous Unit Citation.
After the battalion colors were passed from Fidler to McElveen, Col. James Barkley, state aviation officer, addressed the crowd and offered words of advice to the new command.
“Success isn’t measured by the rank on the shoulders, or the medals on your chest, but by the difference you’ve made along the way,” said Barkley. “Aviation proud, Army strong, time to soar.”