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The 426th Regiment Regional Training Institute (RTI) welcomed its new commandant during a Change of Responsibility ceremony June 7 at the Wisconsin Military Academy (WMA) at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Easterday, the outgoing command sergeant major of the 426th, was commended for his achievements during his tenure at the RTI.

“He is going to be a big loss to the organization, but like all great leaders he has built a great bench of people behind him that will continue to fill the ranks,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Anderson, the top officer in the Wisconsin Army National Guard.

Easterday passed the noncommissioned officer sword off to his successor, Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph W. Moehrke, signifying the responsibility and authority from the outgoing to the incoming command sergeant major.

Easterday oversaw the training of more than 1,000 Soldiers during his time as commandant of the RTI, to include more than 700 officer candidates and 200 noncommissioned officers.

“Many of those officers are now in the field-grade level and the impact that they are having on the rest of the organization is one of the neatest impacts that I can think of,” Easterday said in an interview before the ceremony.

“I will miss the great camaraderie, the great friends and I will miss the work,” Easterday said. “There is no greater feeling than serving Soldiers, taking care of their needs and making sure that they are trained and ready to go.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph W. Moehrke of Lake Mills, Wisconsin, assumed the responsibility of carrying on an extraordinary heritage of excellence.

“I have absolute confidence in his capabilities, skills and competence,” Anderson said. “I am confident that he will continue to build upon the legacy that Command Sgt. Maj. Easterday started.”

Moehrke holds a bachelor’s degree in Management and Communications from Concordia University and is a graduate of the United States Army’s Sergeant’s Major Academy.

“The command sergeant major is the commandant of this academy, the epitome of its leadership, and is charged with developing that in our students,” Col. Gregory J. Hirsch, commander of the 426th Regiment RTI, said during the ceremony. “Command Sgt. Maj. Easterday has had a long and distinguished career in the Wisconsin National Guard and has made significant contributions to the regiment.

“He has made a lot of improvements to not just our RTI, but improvements that National Guard Bureau has taken and implemented in other RTIs,” Hirsch said of Easterday after the ceremony. “His oversight and leadership ensured that the regiment was rated an ‘Institute of Excellence’ in 2012, a rating that very few RTIs can claim. His stewardship and dedication will be missed.”

Easterday was presented with a statue of an eagle draped with the U.S. flag that served as a thank you from all of the 2nd Battalion Soldiers for Easterday’s leadership and mentoring while serving as the RTI command sergeant major.

Easterday was also awarded the Legion of Merit for his service to the Wisconsin Army National Guard and his genuine concern for Soldiers during his career.

Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Shields, the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s top senior enlisted advisor, was present at the ceremony and praised Easterday’s performance and the quality of students the 426th produces.

“I feel very confident that the right selection has been made,” Shields said of Moehrke. Shields served with Moehrke during a deployment to Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005. “He brings a wealth of experience to this organization. He will carry on the tradition of Command Sgt. Maj. Easterday and advance the whole organization.”