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The 32nd “Red Arrow” Infantry Brigade Combat Team welcomed a new commander during a formal change of command ceremony June 17 on the parade field at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

Col. Michael George, who previously served as the deputy commander of the 32nd Brigade, assumed command of the more than 3,400 Soldiers and units based in 36 Wisconsin communities. George replaced Col. G. Michael Rand, who commanded the Red Arrow for the past two years.

George, who enlisted in 1978 and now has more than 32 years of military service to his credit, was grateful to begin this new journey as the commander of the 32nd.

sm160617-Z-AS4327-166.jpg“To every Red Arrow Soldier, I am proud to count you as a fellow Soldier, and deeply honoured to serve with you as your commander,” George said as he addressed the brigade during the ceremony.

This year marks 99 years since the Red Arrow’s formation when Wisconsin and Michigan National Guard units first joined together to form the 32nd Infantry Division for service in World War I. George said he feels grateful to lead the brigade into the Red Arrow’s 100th year and continue the legacy of teamwork and excellence.

“I am very grateful to have this unique command opportunity,” George said. “I am proud of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team with its incredible history and am inspired by what I see in fellow Soldiers across the brigade.”

Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general, presided over the ceremony as the commander of the Wisconsin National Guard. He also invoked the organizations history and heritage and pointed out the brigade colors and the many battle streamers adorning them, noting the history and heritage they represent.

sm160617-Z-OB094-062.jpg“The Red Arrow has a proud and noble legacy of service to our state and nation as evidenced by campaign streamers from the Red Arrow’s service in places like New Guinea, France, the Philippines and Iraq,” Dunbar said. “Every Soldier that wears the Red Arrow should be proud of those colors because they signify a storied lineage of Wisconsin National Guardsmen fulfilling our unique dual mission as the Army’s primary combat reserve, and Wisconsin’s first military responder.”

Dunbar also highlighted that both the incoming and outgoing commanders’ careers paralleled one another, as both served as infantry officers and George followed in Rand’s footsteps in various assignments.

“Congratulations on a job well done, Col. Rand,” Dunbar said. “I fully expect that Col. George will take the Red Arrow to even greater heights in the years ahead, as he continues to build on the strong foundation already established.”

George thanked Rand for his service and mentorship both while he was his deputy commander, and when the served together on deployment in 2005-06.

“Col. Rand, it’s been my honor, twice now, to serve as your second-in-command,” George said. “You are truly a great friend, a caring leader and mentor. Not just to me, but to scores of others, as well.”

sm160617-Z-AS4327-096.jpgRand reflected on his years of service with George.

“When I deployed, Col. George was my sounding board,” Rand said. “I tend to lead more from my heart than my head, and Col. George is extremely smart and a great leader. I have known him for more than 15 years, and he is without a doubt one of the nicest and most professional men that I have ever met in my life.”

In his final remarks to the Red Arrow as its commander, Rand reflected on his time as the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s commander and on his 33 years in uniform. Before and after the ceremony, many Soldiers thanked Rand for his leadership throughout his time in the National Guard, both as a commander and as a friend.

“Thirty-three years of doing something is a long time,” he said. “I never dreamed in a million years that I would be the commander of the 32nd brigade. My greatest accomplishment is really hard to say because I have had a lot. I’d have to say, it is the comments I got from people today thanking me for being their leader and being a nice guy.

“I do care about these soldiers, I really do,” he continued “I treat them all like they are my children and I am very protective of them. I think that approach helped me to be a good leader and having a sense of humor has also helped.”

In his first remarks as the new commander, George wanted his Soldiers and their families to know how important everyone one of them are in the success of the brigade and their mission.

“Every Soldier counts and every family counts,” said George. “We will not be successful as a team unless we are willing to trust one another and hold each other accountable. Then we must make a daily, weekly, and monthly commitment to do everything with excellence as individuals and as a team.”

George assumes command of the brigade after serving in many leadership positions throughout the Red Arrow, including time as the deputy brigade commander, the brigade’s administrative and executive officer, and the commander of the 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry among other assignments.

During Rand’s tenure as commander, 65 Soldiers from the 32nd Brigade’s military engagement team and base defense operations center completed a deployment to Kuwait and Jordan. He retires in late August with more than 33 years of military service and is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and children. He will continue to serve until then with the 32nd Brigade.