Col. Randall V. Simmons, Jr., of Gray, retired as commander of the Calhoun-headquartered squadron after 30 years of service, during which he served actively and in the reserve military services. After Oct. 3, he will continue working with the Guard as a brigade officer.
Simmons turned command over to Maj. Matthew J. Saxton, of Dallas, Ga., who previously served as executive officer, operations officer and commander of company H, 121st Infantry.
Senior officers, soldiers and guests watched as Simmons handed the colors to Col. Lee Durham, 48th Infantry Brigade Officer, who in turn passed Simmons’s responsibilities to Maj. Saxton.
Saxton told the audience members he was prepared to face the new challenges ahead.
“I am honored by our leadership to have the opportunity to lead the outstanding citizen soldiers assembled on this field today,” Saxton said. “Come what will, I will do my utmost to be worthy of the honor and great trust you have shown me.”
He added that the squadron has already made many sacrifices and he reassured the soldiers that they would never have to question his readiness.
The First Squadron, 108th Cavalry, one of the volunteer units of the Georgia National Guard’s 108th Division, has companies that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Come what will — I will wake every day and go to bed every night knowing that my duty is to serve you,” Saxton said.
Two distinguished service awards were also presented to the 108th troops in attendance Sunday: the Combat Action award, which recognizes soldiers for their direct involvement with enemy troops; and the Meritorious Unit Citation award, which recognizes the entire troop for outstanding service, heroic deeds and valorous actions.
The Combat Action streamer is awarded to units with soldiers numbering 65 percent or more who have had contact with enemy forces. The flag guideon, which was placed on the unit’s flags by the troop commanders, is black and gold in color and reads, “combat action” and displays the respective unit names.
The Meritorious Unit Citation streamer recognizes troops’ performances in Operation Enduring Freedom. The guideon is solid red in color.
Following the attachment of the guideon, Brigade Gen. Maria Britt said the ceremony was symbolic because it commemorates the 9-11 anniversary.
“It is ironic that this fell on the weekend anniversary of 9/11 and this is a ceremony that reminds us of the importance of being a part of service,” Britt said.
Britt ended by paying tribute to the volunteer soldiers for their service.
“Although the attention is focused on these two leaders, this ceremony is still about you,” Britt said. “You volunteered to serve your state and nation as citizen soldiers.”
“You did not shrink from danger, uncertainty, or duty,” she added.