Alaska Army National Guard under new leadership

38th Troop Command welcomes new commander


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Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Katkus, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, passes the guidon to Brig. Gen. Leon “Mike” Bridges, incoming commander of the Alaska Army National Guard, signifying his assumption of command during the Alaska Army National Guard change of command ceremony held at the Alaska National Guard Armory Jan 7.

Photo by Staff Sgt. Karima Turner, 134th Public Affairs Detachment, Alaska Army National Guard.

The Alaska Army National Guard is under new leadership.

Leon “Mike” Bridges, who was promoted to Brigadier General Jan. 6, took the colors from Brig. Gen. Julio “Randy” Banez during a change of command ceremony on Joint-Base Elmendorf Richardson on Saturday, Jan. 7.

Banez has commanded the Alaska Army National Guard since November 2009 and will retire Feb. 1.

A career National Guardsman, Bridges has served for more than three decades in Alaska, Washington and Oregon.

“It’s been my whole life to be a guardsman, and I can’t imagine a greater honor than to serve as the Alaska Army National Guard commander,” Bridges said in a press release.

Bridges recently served as the deputy chief of staff for logistics for the Alaska National Guard and now is the assistant adjutant general and commander.

During the ceremony, Bridges said he was eager to begin his new role.

“This is an amazing day. Exciting beyond words,” he said. “I’m excited about the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

Bridges said his main concern is keeping his soldiers safe. Along with safety, Bridges said he wants his soldiers healthy and prepared to carry out each day’s mission.

Banez, who’s served for 30 years, said stepping down was a “bittersweet moment.”

“The opportunity to command is given to very few officers,” he said. Banez said he was grateful to have been given the chance to lead the Alaska’s guardsmen.

Banez said he served with some of the best soldiers of his career in Alaska.

In closing, Banez told Bridges he knows the new commander will take the Alaska Army National Guard to the next level.

“I know you’re the right person and the right team for the job,” Banez said.

The 38th Troop Command also got a new leader Jan. 7. Col. Cathy Jorgensen passed the colors to Col. Hunt W. Kerrigan during a change of command ceremony on JBER. Both are Eagle River residents.

Jorgensen was serving as both commander of the 38th Troop Command and chief of staff for the Alaska Army National Guard. Jorgensen, who is retaining her chief of staff position, took command of the 38th Troop Command in August 2009.

During the ceremony, Bridges said the National Guard was proud of all the accomplishments achieved under Jorgensen’s leadership.

“You can be incredibly proud of what you’ve done on your tour,” he said.

Jorgensen likened stepping down as commander to saying goodbye to her family.

Kerrigan said he’s committed to taking care of his soldiers.

“Successful commanders encourage and mentor their soldiers,” he said.

Getting strong employer support of guardsmen is also important to him as a commander, Kerrigan said.

“I want to focus on the importance of employer support,” he said.

The National Guard has several part-time soldiers who rely on their part-time civilian jobs, Kerrigan said. Those soldiers are vital to the National Guard performing its functions, he said.

Along with enlisting employer support, Kerrigan said he’s committed to supporting his soldiers’ families.

 

Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or mike.nesper@alaskastar.com

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