The Idaho Army National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team held a change of command ceremony Saturday at Gowen Field in Boise.
The ceremony recognized the brigade’s accomplishments achieved under the command of Col. Russel Johnson, who led the unit from Feb. 1, 2014 to March 5, 2016.
As the unit bid farewell to Johnson, the ceremony also recognized the Idaho Army National Guard unit’s incoming commander, Col. Farin Schwartz.
“Both commanders have served in many positions throughout the brigade and have deployed in support of 116th combat operations overseas,” Said Idaho National Guard spokesman Major Chris Borders.
Johnson, now a Nampa resident, served two tours of duty in Iraq and served in various leadership positions prior to serving as the brigade commander.
Most noptable under his command, was the brigade’s top performance during its rotation to the National Training Center in the summer of 2015. Johnson led the joint, multi-component team -- totaling more than 4,500 personnel and representing 23 states -- through the first Army National Guard brigade combat team-led exercise of its kind in over a decade. Of the nearly 4,500 personnel, more than 2,500 belonged to the Idaho Army and Air National Guards.
In the spring of 2014, Johnson also led the brigade to Cambodia where U.S. military personnel and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces participated in a major bi-lateral humanitarian aid and disaster response exercise.
He leaves this command to serve as the director of operations for the Idaho Army National Guard.
Schwartz, who served most recently as the commander of the Idaho Army National Guard’s Installation Support Unit, now assumes the responsibility of commanding more than 3,000 Soldiers that make up the brigade -- an organization which spans 26 communities throughout Idaho, and currently includes units in Montana and Oregon.
During the ceremony Saturday, Johnson was presented with the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious service as the commander of the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team.
“Colonel Johnson’s dedication to mission, soldiers, families, and employers was instrumental in the overwhelming success of the brigade during his tenor,” the citations reads, signed by Lt. Gen. Timothy Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard. “Colonel Johnson’s exemplary leadership is in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the Idaho Army National Guard and the United States Army.”
The ceremony followeds military traditions dating back to Revolutionary War, including the symbolic passing of the brigade colors and a large troop formation representing the major units that comprise of the 116th. The Idaho Army National Guard’s 25th Army Band was also on hand to play the Army Song and other traditional military music throughout the event.
The 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team currently consists of two combined arms battalions, a cavalry squadron, a field artillery battalion, a special troops battalion and a brigade support battalion.