FORT PICKETT, Va. –
Col. William L. Zana took command of the Bowling Green-based 91st Troop Command from Col. Lapthe C. Flora May 21, 2016, in a traditional change of command ceremony at Fort Pickett, Virginia. Brig. Gen. Walter L. Mercer, the Virginia National Guard’s Assistant Adjutant General – Army, presided over the exchange of unit colors that represented the transfer of command from Flora to Zana.
“I have served more then 20 years with both of these officers, and I can tell you they are both great officers,” Mercer said. “The leadership of the brigade is going from one strong officer to another.”
Mercer also thanked both Flora and Zana’s families for their support and setting the example of being effective and resilient families.
“None of us could meet the demands of being senior leaders without the support of our families,” he said.
The 91st Troop Command, headquartered at Bowling Green, Va., includes the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, the Fairfax-based Data Processing Unit, the Norfolk-based Joint National Guard Augmentation Unit and the Fairfax-based Information Operations Support Center.
“You have shown a level of professionalism and strong leadership that has made all the senior leaders across the state proud, as well as earned the trust and respect of your NCOs and Soldiers,” Mercer told Flora. “Impressive work, and we recognize the accomplishments you had here and the impact you have made on 91st Troop Command and the Virginia National Guard. I know you will continue to be a key leader in the Virginia National Guard.”
Flora will be promoted to brigadier general June 6 and succeed Brig. Gen. Steven T. Scott as the Assistant Adjutant General for Strategic Initiatives, and Scott will retire after more than 34 years of military service. Zana command’s 91st Troop Command in a traditional Guard status and will work full time as the officer in charge of the Adjutant General’s Strategic Initiatives Group.
“I appreciate the opportunity to have served with 91st Troop Command, the best and the finest brigade, as far as I am concerned, in the National Guard,” Flora said. “They are truly exceptional Citizen-Soldiers. To all the Soldiers, officers and NCOs of 91st Troop Command, I want to personally thank each and every one of you for your professionalism, dedication and service to your country and our commonwealth. I am a better commander today because of you.”
Flora explained that he spent more than 25 years of his military career in the infantry community and serving in the 116th Infantry Regiment and 29th Infantry Division, and he thought he knew most of the capabilities of the Virginia National Guard but that changed once he took command of the 91st. “I have learned and appreciated your unique capabilities and their relevancy,” he said. “I am so grateful for the opportunity and the experience.”
Zana most recently served on the primary staff of the Director of the Army National Guard as the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and policy. In that role he was responsible for developing, coordinating and communicating Army National Guard policy, strategy, plans, strategic communications and business transformation.
“I am both excited and humbled to take command of the 91st,” Zana said. “It is a tremendous responsibility and privilege to command troops at any level. I know I will rely on all of you to continue to accomplish the many missions we are assigned while we work together to achieve higher levels of readiness. Levels of readiness both for units and individuals so we have well prepared Soldiers who are trained and ready to take the state and federal missions both planned and the ones we don’t yet know about.”
Zana earned his commission through Officer Candidate School at the Virginia Military Academy in 1993 and was the class honor graduate. He held multiple platoon leader assignments in 1st Battalion, 170th Infantry Regiment prior to commanding Company B, 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment and later serving as the battalion operations officer during the unit’s federal mobilization to Kuwait and Iraq. He commanded 3rd Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, later served as the executive officer for the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during their federal mobilization to Afghanistan and also served as the deputy operations officer for the 29th Infantry Division. He also deployed to Afghanistan to serve as senior National Guard advisor and was the Personnel Mobilization and Readiness Branch Chief for Combined Joint Task Force – 76. As an enlisted Soldier he served in the 3rd U.S. Infantry, The Old Guard, and was an operations sergeant and a Sentinel and Relief Commander at The Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.
Flora started his military career in 1987 in the Army Reserve after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute and was later transferred to the Virginia Army National Guard where he served in every staff position within 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, including as commander of that battalion. Additionally, Flora served as the 116th IBCT executive officer, 29th Infantry Division’s director of operations and most recently as the Joint Force Headquarters – Virginia director of strategic plans and policy. 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, Va., and holds six patent awards related to the AN/PVS-14 and AN/AVS-9 night vision goggles.
The Clifton Forge-based 29th Division Band provided ceremonial music for the event.