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The Army National Guard Warrior Training Center changed leaders Monday on the grounds of the Ranger Memorial as incoming commander Lt. Col. Mark Bidwell stepped into the shoes of Lt. Col. Philip Johnson, who has led the unit since May 2010.
I want to assure you, sir, that I am well aware of the great gift that has been given to me today, said Bidwell, addressing Col. Thomas Perison, chief of training for the National Guard Bureau. Command is always a privilege, and I am thankful that my duty (is) to lead this incredible organization.
Perison, in town for the change of command ceremony, said the responsibility of leading a unit is both exhilarating and challenging.
Command is what drives the Army, he said. Yet only a few seem to make the cut. Commanders, during times of change, make or break units. And that has never been more true than today in this operational environment. The shift in defense strategy may have refocused our training priorities and our regional focus, but some things will not change. Top-notch training is what we must provide our Soldiers to give them the best advantage in the current conflict. This is the kind of training the Warrior Training Center does.
Perison said he was confident the unit would continue to deliver on that mission.
Bidwell PCSed from Florida, where he served as the chief of Programs Division and senior planner for the Iraq exercise program at MacDill Air Force Base, but hes no stranger to the area.
Im returning to Fort Benning for the third time, he said. The first time I came through here, I was a private, the second time as a captain, and now as a lieutenant colonel. I love the Fort Benning area. Returning to Fort Benning and the Columbus community is really like coming home to me. Im just very much looking forward to getting to know the people in the unit and the people on the installation.
Bidwell enlisted in the Army in 1987. In 1999, he joined the Michigan Army National Guard.
The Infantryman said this command would be different for him compared with past assignments, but he was looking forward to getting started.
As he and his family completed their transition to the unit, he said he was grateful for the mentorship and support Johnson provided throughout the process.
Johnson, meanwhile, is preparing to leave for the National War College in Washington.
Theres no doubt the Warrior Training Center is going to continue to improve from where we are right now, he said. Its in very capable hands. When Lt. Col. Bidwell gets done, its going to move to the next level.
The other piece that will make this unit successful is the continued support from the Maneuver Center of Excellence and the leadership here. Its second to none. There is no division between National Guard and active-duty on this post. This post here has proven we can work together in the one Army school system and do a great job.
Since its inception in 2004, the Warrior Training Center has taught a number of courses, including the Ranger Training Assessment Course, Modern Army Combatives, Air Assault, Pathfinder, Bradley and Abrams Training Assessment Courses, Senior Gunner Course and the Vehicle Crew Evaluator Course.
Training is what the Army does when theyre not out there doing the real thing; theyre training for the fight, Perison said. I know Lt. Col. Johnson has excelled at delivery of this mission. His battalion has trained almost 12,000 Soldiers from all components since May of 2010. Thats impressive.
Johnson said the unit trains many Soldiers, often with limited resources, but they do it for the same reason each Soldier does his or her job.
The one reason why we serve is to protect the greatest national treasure we have, he said, and that is our way of life and that is the American family.