RICHMOND, Va. –
Brig. Gen. Lapthe C. Flora will succeed Brig. Gen. Walter L. Mercer as the Virginia National Guard Assistant Adjutant General – Army, according to an announcement made June 18, 2018, by Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. Flora currently serves as Assistant Adjutant General for Army Strategic Initiatives and will be replaced by Brig. Gen. Paul F. Griffin. Mercer will retire after more than 35 years of military service, but he will continue to serve as the Chief Operating Officer for the Virginia Department of Military Affairs. A transfer of responsibility ceremony between Flora and Mercer is scheduled for July 14.
As the Assistant Adjutant General – Army, Flora will lead the Virignia Army National Guard and provide mission readiness guidance in the areas of training, personnel management, command logistics, facilities and maintenance to support more 7,000 Army National Guard Citizen-Soldiers.
“Walt Mercer leaves a legacy of outstanding leadership and we are thankful for his many years of dedicated service to our commonwealth and nation,” Williams said in the announcement.
“Brig. Gen. Lapthe Flora is a multi-faceted leader who brings operational experience from Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia, as well as joint experience at United States Northern Command, operations experience at 29th Infantry Division, and command experience at all levels through brigade,” Williams said. “He transitions from the ATAG – Strategic Initiatives role, where he oversaw the synchronization, integration and implementation of the VANG Joint Strategic Plan and associated working groups. I am certain that Brig. Gen. Flora will thrive in his new command and will lead our Land Component to continued success in the future.”
Griffin was assigned as Director of the Joint Staff in 2015, after serving as the Chief of the Joint Staff since 2012.
“Brig. Gen. Griffin’s steady leadership guaranteed mission success throughout countless state and national civil support operations, as well as development and strengthening of strategic partnerships on the international stage,” Williams said. “I am confident that he will continue the incredible work that Brig. Gen. Flora initiated in this important role.”
Flora was promoted to brigadier general in June 2016. A native of Saigon, he is the first Vietnamese boat person to be promoted to general officer in the United State Army and the second of Vietnamese descent. Following the Communist capture of Saigon in 1975, Flora and his brothers fled the city to avoid being drafted in to the North Vietnamese military. He spent more than three years in the jungle, then fled by boat to Indonesia where he spent a year living in three separate refugee camps. When he arrived in the U.S., he quickly learned English and finished his high school education in only three years. After high school Flora attended the Virginia Military Institute where he earned a bachelor’s degree and commission in the U. S. Army Reserve in 1987. He has served in a variety of leadership positions in the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 29th Infantry Division and commanded at the company, battalion and brigade level. He has successfully completed three overseas deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. In his civilian capacity, Flora is the Senior Applications Engineer with Night Vision business of Harris Corporation in Roanoke, and holds six patent awards related to the AN/PVS-14 and AN/AVS-9 night vision goggles.
Mercer began his career as an Infantryman in the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment in 1982, before being commissioned from Virginia Tech in 1985 as a Distinguished Military Graduate and Regular Army Artillery Officer. His many assignments include platoon leader, company commander, assistant operations officer, OCS commandant, deputy information operations officer and commander of the 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute. He was selected to be the first commander of the newly formed 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment and led the unit during a deployment to Iraq and Kuwait from 2007 to 2008. Mercer also commanded the 91st Troop Command prior to his assignment as the operations officer for the 29th Infantry Division. His assignments include Germany, Bosnia, Iraq, Kuwait as well as numerous locations throughout the Virginia Army National Guard.
Griffin is a graduate of Longwood College and received his commission as a field artillery officer in 1987 through the University of Richmond ROTC program. He served on active duty in Germany and Fort Stewart, Georgia, and joined the Maryland National Guard in 1995. He transferred to the Virginia National Guard in 1997 and served in a variety of assignments including commanding a field artillery battery and the Virginia National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion. His staff assignments include operations officer for the 1st Battalion, 246th Field Artillery Regiment and 29th Division Artillery, and he served as chief of staff of the 29th Infantry Division prior to becoming the Virginia National Guard Director of the Joint Staff. Griffin deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1997 as a fire support officer in support of Operation Joint Guard, and he served on federal active duty as a battalion executive officer in 2003 in support of Operation Noble Eagle. In 2011 he mobilized again as the chief of staff of 29th Infantry Division Forward in Kabul, Afghanistan.