Soldiers of the New York Army National Guard’s Company E 427th Brigade Support Battalion stood at attention Sunday morning as 1st Lt. Mark Colloton took command of their company in a ceremony at Niskayuna High School.
Colloton replaces outgoing commander Capt. Stephen Kitchen.
The National Guard “Freedom Salute” recognition ceremony and company change of command ceremony featured the traditional passing of the guidon — a flag bearing the company’s colors — from outgoing to incoming commander.
Colloton, 30, of Rotterdam, said being a commander is something he’s always looked forward to.
He enlisted in the New York Army National Guard in 2002 and has served in Iraq, as a team leader for convoy operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He most recently served as a logistics liaison officer for the New York Army National Guard’s response to Superstorm Sandy.
“I taught him everything,” said outgoing commander Kitchen, who called Colloton “the perfect choice” for the position.
Taking the reins from Kitchen, Colloton said he has big shoes to fill.
“Capt. Kitchen’s a great guy and he’s taught me a lot,” he said.
Kitchen, who lives in Albany, was commissioned in the New York Army National Guard in 2001 and during his career has served as a platoon leader in the 1st Battalion 101st Calvary during the New York Army National Guard’s response to the World Trade Center attacks, and as an infantry headquarters company executive officer during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He most recently served as company commander during Operation Enduring Freedom.
His next position will be a job at the headquarters of the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs.
Kitchen said he takes great pride in the fact that no soldiers were lost in the recent mission he led in Afghanistan.
“I have not been easy on the soldiers of this company and I point to the fact that they all stand before you safe, and I make no excuses and no apologies for what I needed to do. They’re all home safe and I will be proud of that for the rest of my life,” he told a crowd of about 50 friends and family members who sat in the bleachers in the high school’s gym Sunday.
Sixty-two soldiers from the battalion were present for the ceremony — those who returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan in September. The other 64 battalion members are still reintegrating to the community after their return from Kuwait at the end of December.
To symbolize the shift in the battalion’s leadership from Kitchen to Colloton, a guidon, a small tan flag bearing the number 427 and the letter E, in red, was passed from Kitchen to the company’s battalion commander, who in turn passed it to Colloton. Colloton then passed it to the company’s first sergeant.
During wartime, a guidon was traditionally used to indicate a unit’s location on the battlefield, as well as the location of the commander.
After the guidon was passed, Lt. Col. Joseph Biehler, commander of the 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry, praised the work of both Colloton and Kitchen.
“You’re sitting here today because of what you’ve done, your past performance. We had a challenging mission deployed and you did a heck of a job,” he told Colloton.
Biehler also commended the families of all of the soldiers for supporting the troops and staying strong while they were away in Afghanistan.
“We knew that you had our back and that is what made us successful, because we were focusing on the mission and we got through a very challenging job that we had to do over there,” he said.
At Sunday’s ceremony, Kitchen was awarded the Bronze Star for exceptional service during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Every member of the 427th Brigade Support Battalion received awards during the event.
Also during the ceremony, Sgt. Thomas Mahoney was promoted to master sergeant, and Staff Sgt. John Russo was promoted to sergeant first class.
A similar ceremony was held Sunday morning in Gloversville, where the soldiers of the New York Army National Guard’s Company C 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry were honored for their service in Afghanistan, and Capt. Dermot Gavin replaced outgoing commander Capt. Shawn Tabankin.
Gavin joined the New York Army National Guard in 2006 and has served as an infantry platoon leader, infantry company executive officer and infantry battalion logistics officer.
His predecessor’s next assignment will be as the force integration and readiness officer for the New York National Guard.