U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford “Beags” Beagle Jr., left, passes the 193rd Infantry Brigade colors to incoming Commander Col. Mark E. Huhtanen during a change of command ceremony June 19 at Victory Field. Col. John “JC” White officially relinquished his duties and responsibilities to Huhtanen with the passing of the brigade’s colors. (Photo by Alexandra Shea)
“Command Sgt. Maj. (Raymond) Butler passes the brigade colors to Col. White … for the final time, signifying the unit’s allegiance to the commander,” said the narrator of the 193rd Infantry Brigade change of command ceremony.
Col. Mark E. Huhtanen took command of the brigade from Col. John “JC” White during a ceremony on Victory Field June 19.
White passed the colors to Brig. Gen. Milford H. “Beags” Beagle Jr., Fort Jackson commander, who in turn passed them to Huhtanen charging him with command of the unit.
As the brigade’s colors are returned to their keeper, the commanders, old and new, turned to follow Beagle from the field. As the men stepped off, Huhtanen and White switched their positions aside Beagle signifying the transfer of authority for the brigade.
As Huhtanen and White returned to their seats, Beagle removed his cloth face mask and quickly wiped sweat from his brow as he stepped to the podium to give his remarks.
“You know it’s a South Carolina day when it’s hot … with a capitol H,” Beagle said jokingly. “JC, it’s all your fault. We’ve had changes of command with overcast and cool temperatures … until today. So JC couldn’t go out in any better fashion but it’s a great day to be a Soldier.”
While the ceremony was attended by friends and Family members, each socially distanced themselves from one another and the ceremony was live streamed for extended friends and Families to view.
“This just goes to show how COVID-19 has changed things,” Beagle said. “But it won’t change what we do and won’t stop us from doing things like this. To witness the changing of the guard between two great leaders is always inspiring.”
Beagle continued his speech to highlight the precedence White has set for the brigade.
“He (White) is a leader who cares deeply about his people and it shows in everything he did in command,” Beagle said. “What he and Command Sgt. Maj. Butler have achieved as a command team is nothing short of outstanding.”
Beagle said that during change of command ceremonies, attendees only remember three things; how long the first speaker takes, if the outgoing commander show emotion and if the in-coming commander speaks for less than two minutes. While Beagle spoke of the three things jokingly, it could have been his foreshadowing of the ceremony.
“General Beagle, thanks for those kind words, even if you exaggerated ..., I’m not even a page in,” White said as he tried to restrain his emotion while giving his parting speech. “As you know, those accolades you talked about from the Bayonet team, that team standing on the field right there … it’s theirs, not mine.”
White took the time to thank members of his brigade’s support staff, Soldiers and his Family members for their support during his time at Fort Jackson. He also said the Fort Jackson climate was one he had never served in before and promised to carry it forward as he becomes the program manager for the Saudi Arabian National Guard.
White’s voice notably cracked as he said his final thank you to his parents and children.
“To Rach, Jay and Boo, or as I like to call them my three knuckle heads. You continue to inspire your mom and I daily with your strength, humor, stubbornness and resilience. Just know, no matter what, you make us proud,” White said. “I saved the best for last and shortest because I will get more emotional than I am right now. To the one that has been by my side doing this Army thing for 23 years. I couldn’t have done this without you kid. I love you Amy.”
White quickly walked away after his final sign-off as “Bayonet 6” to rejoin his family as Huhtanen took the podium.
“Thank you for supporting us today, it’s an honor standing here today,” Huhtanen said. “Twenty four years ago I reported for my first duty assignment as a second lieutenant for Reserve Officer Training at Fort Lewis, Washington. I was paired with on old, crusty sergeant first class who was a combat veteran and a drill sergeant.”
Huhtanen continued to explain how the non-commissioned officer would regale stories of his combat deployment in Panama. He said he was convinced that this NCO had served in combat with one of the best units in the Army. Little did he know, he would become a member of that very unit he had heard so much about.
“That unit was the 193rd,” Huhtanen said. “During the past 24 years, I never would have though my career would come full circle and I would get to become part of such a team. I hope I can live up to the history and reputation of its past leaders.”
Huhtanen’s final words were delivered in under three minutes instead of Beagle’s foreshadowed two.
“Bayonet 6 signing on. No ground to give,” Hutanen said. “Victory … Starts here.”
The ceremony ended with “sound attention,” as the brigade colors were retired and attendees sang the Army Song. White and Hutanen stood at the front of the gathering as fellow Soldiers, civilians and friends elbow bumped and foot tapped their welcome and farewells to the commander.