Soldiers bid farewell to ‘Warrior’ leader
Capt. Ginette Bocanegra,
2nd Bn., 43rd ADA:
SOUTHWEST ASIA – Distinguished guests of the Army, Air Force and Navy joined the “Strength in Honor” Battalion downrange at a change-of-command ceremony held Thursday between outgoing commander Lt. Col. Alan A. Wiernicki and incoming commander Lt. Col. Mike Solis for the 2nd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery “Warriors.”
Solis took over the “Strength in Honor” Battalion in a unique transition where Wiernicki will head back to garrison and fill Solis’ former position as deputy commanding officer for the 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.
“Many will benefit from Lieutenant Colonel Wiernicki’s new office due to his deployment experience within the brigade; he has a great leadership advantage because of that and will be a big help to the battalions scheduled to deploy during his time there,” said Maj. Ethan Hall, battalion operations major.
The ceremony began with a benediction by the battalion chaplain, Capt. Ricky Trull. The color guard then marched out into the front and center of the formation where proper honors were rendered before Wiernicki, Solis and Col. Christopher Spillman, commander of the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade (forward deployed), approached for the traditional passing of colors.
Wiernicki surrendered the colors to Spillman, indicating his relinquishment of command. Spillman then handed the colors to Solis, symbolizing the passing of responsibility, equipment and personnel to the new commander. Solis finally returned the colors to Command Sgt. Maj. Evaristo Torres Jr., battalion command sergeant major, signifying the unity of colors once again with the formation.
Wiernicki assumed command of the battalion in June 2009 and led the Soldiers through reset after returning from a deployment to Southwest Asia just months earlier. He then transitioned the unit into a challenging series of Patriot post-deployment build tests and exercises in preparation for another rotation into the command theater of operations.
The battalion finally deployed with Wiernicki as their leader in January 2011.
“He always motivated Soldiers with a positive attitude even if something went wrong, which is the most important thing in leading a unit downrange,” said Pfc. Michael McMillan, a radio telephone operator for the battalion’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery. “What surprised me most was the day he asked me how Ashley was doing. Most high-ranking officers do not know their Soldiers on such a personal level. He did not ask how my ‘wife’ was; he asked for her by name and it meant a lot me that he’d take the time to find out not just what I do, but who I am. He will be greatly missed.”
Spillman presented Wiernicki a Bronze Star and brigade coin for his time and accomplishments while in command.
“In every aspect of this mission, this battalion, under Al’s leadership, was executed to the highest standards that I have ever seen, period,” said Spillman. “As you redeploy home, be content because it was your leadership which produced a battalion that successfully deployed to two countries, took on a tough mission for our nation and excelled. Reflect on your service with this great battalion with the knowledge that you placed your personal stamp on its officers, NCOs and Soldiers, and they are better because of it.”
A humbled Wiernicki, however, attributed his achievement to the “Strength in Honor” Soldiers.
“This battalion’s vision was to be better than average at most things but great at mainly two: to be the very best in the Army at Patriot tactics and warfighting, all while being the safest and most disciplined battalion at Fort Bliss,” said Wiernicki. “Our vision statement further asked to develop a future generation of leaders for the air defense artillery branch and our Army. Ladies and gentleman, mission accomplished – our future is standing right in front of you.”
In closing, Spillman addressed Solis: “As you step off stage today, the new commander of 2-43 ADA, my only advice is that you seize on the opportunity that lies ahead to lead your Soldiers to new and even greater achievement … temper the burden that comes with command by knowing that you are doing all you can each and every day to make your Soldiers and the battalion better.”
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