Military leadership shifts in area units (photo gallery)
CAPITAL REGION This weekend there are three major leadership changes for the New York National Guard, including two Saturday and one scheduled for today in Latham at the New York National Guard Joint Force Headquarters.
In Saturday's ceremony at the Stratton Air National Guard Base in Glenville, Iraq war veteran Lt. Col. Andrew Caliendo assumed command to the New York Army National Guard's 501st Explosive Ordnance Battalion, which had been under the command of Lt. Col. Robert Mitchell. The unit Caliendo is taking control of oversees five explosive ordnance disposal companies, which are key in handling bombs and improvised explosive devices.
The 501st EOD was deployed to Iraq in the fall of 2010, where it was stationed for nine months and was responsible for an 81,000-square-mile area.
The event Saturday was a traditional change-of-command ceremony, with a symbolic transfer from the outgoing commander to the new commander. The ceremony was witnessed by members of the unit.
Caliendo, who lives in Westchester County, was deployed to New York City with his company on Sept. 11, 2001. Four years later, he served as a support operations officer in Iraq for parts of 2004 and 2005. In his career, Caliendo amassed the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and other honors.
Mitchell, who lives in Ballston Lake, took command of the battalion in 2009 and holds the Bronze Star Medal, among other honors.
Also on Saturday at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Latham, was the elevation of New York Army National Guard Lt. Col. Albert J. Ricci Sr. to head of the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade.
The Ballston Lake resident is a full-time member of the Guard and has two deployments in Iraq under his belt. His awards include the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medals, the Air Medal, Army Commendation Medals and Army Achievement Medal.
Today, New York Army National Guard Col. James Coleman, a military flight surgeon, will assume command of the New York National Guard Medical Command. The post had previously been occupied by Col. Greg Meinking, who is retiring after 32 years of military service.
Medical Command was created in 1987 as a mobile medical team for troops, with the focus of deployment readiness. The group now provides health assessments and dental services for every soldier in the New York Army National Guard.
Coleman, who lives in Schuyler County, is board certified in family medicine and was deployed in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2004 as the Combined Joint Task Force flight surgeon. He joined the New York Army National Guard Medical Command in 2004, with deployments to Kuwait, Iraq and Kosovo.
His honors include the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal and National Defense Service Medal.
Meinking will retire to Buffalo. In his career he earned the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Assistance Medal and Global War on Terror Service Medal.