Pomp and Circumstance was the order of the day as The Kentucky National Guard and 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry “Mountain Warriors” held a Change of Command Ceremony Saturday.
Outgoing Battalion Commander LTC Joseph D. Lear officially handed over leadership of the Mountain Warriors to the battalion’s new commanding officer, LTC Thomas W. Black.
Along with LTC Lear and LTC Black’s families and friends, also sharing in the day’s celebration were numerous active duty and retired officers associated with the 149th.
Col. Bryan M. Howay, commander of 75th Troop Command, was the reviewing officer of the day.
“He oversaw the Battalion recruit and retain over 1,000 screaming and fighting infantry men for the first time in history,” said Col. Howay of the outgoing commander LTC Joe Lear. “In Joe Lear we have a soldier who could rightly be described as ‘Mr. Mountain Warrior.’ He’s been on every major deployment we’ve had since 2001. And he’s been instrumental in our success every step of the way.”
Of the incoming commander, Col. Howay told the guests, “We have not have a commander in this battalion who has served in as many diverse assignments as LTC Black. He’s been a soldier in the unit and the father of a soldier in the unit. He’s currently a successful local businessman, and there’s truly nothing that he can’t relate to. In Tom Black, you are getting a commander who is tough, fair, and willing to go to the ends of the earth for you. And he’s the right guy to take this battalion to the next level.”
LTC Lear, humbled by the short of support of his fellow officers and NCOs, addressed the soldiers of his now former command.
“I’d like to thank each soldier in this command. I’ve been honored to be your commander and to serve with your in the battalion. You’re all true patriots and fine Americans. You are the heart and soul of this battalion. I’m just the old man that got to stand in front for a moment.”
Thomas Black is a Knox County native, the son of Calvin Black and Carol Scott, and the eldest of four children, growing up in Barbourville and graduating Knox Central High School. He has a Bachelors Degree in Computer Information Systems from University of the Cumberlands.
He and his wife Sandra, who recently passed, were married 10 years and have four children, Austin Black, Jared Black, Devan Root, and Callie Black.
Black has been a realtor for eight years, six of those as owner and principal broker of Re/Max Signature Realty in Corbin.
LTC Black has served 30 years with the Kentucky National Guard with deployments to Iraq during Operation New Dawn and in Germany during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“When you look at this battalion as a single entity and reflect on what this Mountain Warrior Battalion has accomplished over the last 14 years, you can’t help but swell up with just a little bit of pride,” said LTC Tom Black as he addressed his new command. “This is the best combat army battalion in the Army National Guard nationwide. That is not an opinion. That is a matter of fact.
“Change of leadership is easy, and we celebrate that, but our focus must remain on our changing indoctrine, our technology, our equipment, our techniques and procedures while understanding that change is imperative for us to stay on the tip of the sword. All these changes are necessary for us to continue to underwrite the current and future threats, including our local threats and the enemies of this nation.”
LTC Black thanked his children for their continued support and for always appreciating what being a soldier means to their dad.
“I have to say that my most honorable character now is being a dad,” said LTC Black. “My second most honorable character is being a United States Army Infantry officer, proudly serving in the Kentucky Army National Guard. My most honorable moment in this uniform is returning to these Mountain Warriors today as a leader, standing shoulder to shoulder and defending freedom.”