Aug. 19, 2009

New commander takes reins of 203rd Red Horse Squadron

By Lt. Col. D. Magaldi
Virginia Air Guard Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — During a military change-of-command ceremony June 6, Lt. Col. Peter S. Garner took the reins of the 203rd Red Horse Squadron, a Virginia Air National Guard unit based at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach. He assumed command of the rapid-response engineering unit from Lt. Col. Scott A. Hill.

  203rd Red Horse Change of Command

Lt. Col. Peter S. Garner (right) accepts the unit flag and command of the 203rd RED HORSE Squadron from Brig. Gen. Charles L. Smith, Headquarters, Virginia Air National Guard, during a ceremony held recently at the 203rd headquarters. (Photo by Capt. Craig Carper, 192nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)

Senior Virginia Air Guard leadership, former unit commanders and past and current unit members and family members attended the ceremony that was officiated by Brig. Gen. Charles L. Smith, of Headquarters,  Virginia Air National Guard.

Prior to becoming the unit’s new commander, Garner served as the 203rd’s deputy commander. He is also the unit’s fulltime director of operations. Garner served in U.S. Army engineering units for 10 years before joining the Virginia Air National Guard. He has been with 203rd for nine years. During that time he deployed numerous times and in a variety of capacities, in support of both state and federal missions. He deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar with the unit in 2003 in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom where he was the project officer responsible for the construction of a 10,000 square foot multi-purpose facility.

He has commanded deployed detachments made up of hundreds of active duty and guard engineering personnel responsible for executing $9 million worth of construction projects. And he commanded a 600-person, joint Air Force, Army and civilian contractor team in the construction of a $25 million base used by more than 3,500 Army soldiers during U.S. surge operations in 2007 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Garner is the fifth commander of the 24-year-old unit Air National Guard engineering unit. He has earned numerous military awards including the Bronze Star and the Meritorious Service Medal with four devices. He has received many commendation and achievement medals from multiple branches of the U.S. Department of Defense. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Virginia and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Clarkson University in N.Y. and a Master’s Degree in Construction Engineering and Management from Purdue University, Ind.

Smith addressed the unit during the event, saying in part: “A change of command may seem to be about the command, but it is much more about you [unit members]. The change of command ceremony is steeped in tradition from a time when communications from higher headquarters could be slow and spotty. A ceremony like this lets a unit see its new commander and lets them know that this is official….

“Today, operating under the Total Force Integration we are becoming more individualized.  You may be less likely to deploy with your unit or under your unit’s flag than in the past, but what you are doing to support the U.S. Department of Defense and your nation is more important than ever….

“Thank you all for your many accomplishments and your dedicated service to the commonwealth and the nation. You are at the front of the battle.”

After accepting command of the 203rd Garner thanked senior leaders and unit members for placing their trust in his ability to lead the unit and that he takes that responsibility very seriously. He listed the many deployments, operations, inspections and challenges that he and fellow unit members have handled during his time with the unit, and noted: “Together we can and will accomplish anything.”

He acknowledged the nearly 50 unit members deployed to Guam, and addressed the many sacrifices made by unit members and their families in order for the unit to achieve its often far-flung and varied missions. He thanked his wife, Maureen, and their children for their many sacrifices and steadfast support.

Garner is the son of Jeanne Garner of Gouverneur, N.Y.

Hill has been tapped to become a squadron commander within the 192d Fighter Wing, based at Langley Air Force Base, another unit of the Virginia Air National Guard. He served at the 203rd’s commander for the last two years.

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