December 3, 2008

Mercer takes command of Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regional Training Institute

By Maj. Cotton. Puryear
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Col. Ken McGrew hands the 183rd RTI colors to Brig. Gen. Eugene  Stockton to signify his relinquishing of command to Lt. Col. Walt  Mercer. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — Lt. Col. Walt Mercer assumed command of the Virginia National Guard’s Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regional Training Institute from Col. Ken McGrew in a ceremony held at Fort Pickett Nov. 23. The change of command ceremony marked the end of a three-year command tour for McGrew. Mercer just recently relinquished command of the Portsmouth-based 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry, a unit that he commanded during its federal tour of duty in Iraq and Kuwait from September 2007 to May 2008.

“Under the guidance and leadership of Col. McGrew, this regiment has lived up to an standard of excellence,” said Brig. Gen. Eugene A. Stockton, Assistant Adjutant General for Army. He recognized the RTI for the many awards they have received, all centered around the word 'excellence.' “This regiment received an honor that is very difficult to get. I am not surprised because the Soldiers, the NCOs and officer have the middle name of excellence.”

“Without this regiment and its commitment to training excellence, I don’t know where the Virginia Guard would be,” Stockton said. “It has stood up to the challenge of getting our Soldiers ready for the numerous deployments taking place in the Virginia Guard.”

Stockton commended Mercer for his leadership of the 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry during the unit’s combat deployment, and he said he knew he was up to the task of commanding the RTI.

“These past three years have not only been a great opportunity for me, but it has allowed me to mentor, coach and share my experiences and knowledge not only with members of the 183rd, but with the many Soldiers that have passed through the doors of this great school house,” McGrew said.

Brig. Gen. Eugene Stockton hands the 183rd RTI colors to Lt. Col. Walt 
Mercer to signify his assumption of command. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“I have learned throughout my career that no one person or command becomes successful with the support and help of many people,” he said. “I have been blessed to work for and with many great officers and enlisted personnel.” McGrew gave credit to the professionalism and quality of the RTI’s Noncommissioned Officer Corps as a large part of the many successes the unit achieved over the last three years.

In his remarks as outgoing commander, he highlighted some of the most significant achievements.

The RTI’s 1st Battalion received the “Center of Excellence” award, the highest award that any “school house” training unit can receive. RTI’s 2nd Battalion completed the stand up transition to a transportation training battalion one year ahead of schedule and earned accreditation on the first time it was evaluated. The 3rd Battalion completed the “stand up” of the military police training company a year ahead of schedule, passed their accreditation on the first time it was evaluated, and the Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course received the “Center of Excellence” award.

The Virginia National Guard Office Candidate School Company also received the “Center of Excellence” award, and assisted the Maryland OCS Battalion they align with in their accreditation and helped the battalion secure “Center of Excellence” honors. McGrew said it was the first time that both a company and a battalion received “Center of Excellence” honors by any other state.

The battalions of the RTI increased their throughput by more than 1,400 Soldiers for critical infantry, military police and transportation specialties during the state’s largest mobilization push since World War II, McGrew said.

“Today I have the honor of assuming command of the 183rd RTI,” Mercer said. “The great success that RTI has had during his three years of command speaks for itself, and I am honored to have the opportunity to continue the great work that he and the here at RTI have done.”

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