STAUNTON, Va. –
Col. Jared D. Lake and Command Sgt. Maj. Duane D. Wolfe took charge as the new command team for the Staunton-based 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Col. Christopher J. Samulski and Command Sgt. Maj. Irving N. Reed Jr. March 5, 2023, in Staunton, Virginia. Maj. Gen. John M. Rhodes, 29th Infantry Division Commanding General, presided over the ceremony where Lake took command of the 116th from Samulski and Wolfe assumed responsibility from Reed as the brigade’s senior enlisted leader.
“This is a historic moment for all of us,” Rhodes said. “I want to thank all the Soldiers of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. You are carrying on the proud tradition of those who served before you. Thanks to you and your families for your service to the nation, the Commonwealths of Virginia and Kentucky, the National Guard and the 29th Infantry Division.”
Rhodes recognized both Reed and Wolfe for their outstanding duty performance as the senior noncommissioned officers for two recently-completed overseas federal active duty mobilizations in challenging situations where they built partnerships with multi-national forces.
Reed served as the command sergeant major for the 116th IBCT Headquarters mission in Kosovo, and Wolfe was the senior enlisted leader for the Task Force Red Dragon mission in the Horn of Africa.
“It is an honor to continue to serve with both of you,” he said. “Thank you very much for your devoted service.”
Rhodes said both Samulski and Lake are “not only outstanding officers and Soldiers, but they are quality individuals devoted to their families, communities and the Army values and principles of our nation.”
He noted the 116th IBCT is the largest unit in the Virginia Army National Guard and is “comprised of highly-trained Soldiers with various specialty skills who are capable of conducting any assigned mission. They are a proven ready force who can operate both domestically and overseas.”
Rhodes talked about how the 116th successfully mobilized to Washington, D.C., in January 2021 on short notice to support Capitol Police and remained on the ground for more than 30 days in support of the presidential inauguration. As soon as they ended the security mission, they immediately began preparations for multiple large-scale overseas deployments.
The 116th IBCT Headquarters served as the mission command headquarters for NATO Kosovo Force Regional Command-East from March to November 2022, at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. As the multi-national brigade assigned to RC-East, the 116th was responsible for more than 1,000 personnel from 10 different nations to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement throughout Kosovo.
More than 1,000 Virginia and Kentucky National Guard Soldiers mobilized as Task Force Red Dragon under the command of the Lynchburg-based 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team to conduct a security mission for Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa from November 2021 through September 2022.
Soldiers assigned to the Norfolk-based 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team served on federal active duty in Iraq from December 2021 through November 2022 with a short-range air defense mission for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.
The brigade had three different missions sets with three different combatant commands, and at the same time the 116th continued to conduct domestics operation Virginia, Rhodes said.
“Meeting operational requirements and achieving mission success in all aspects was due to strong leadership and these outstanding Soldiers,” he said.
He credited Samulski with “a job well done” and said, “Your service will always have a lasting influence on the 116th and the Army National Guard in both Virginia and Kentucky.”
Rhodes said the Normandy Brigade was passing the torch to Lake and described him as a proven leader who is respected by subordinates and peers alike who was no stronger to the 116th or the 29th ID.
“His grand vision and broad experience make him the right person for this command,” Rhodes said. “He is more than ready and fully qualified to lead the 116th IBCT in their upcoming challenges.”
He told Lake, “I am fully confident in your abilities, and I know you will lead these Soldiers in the right direction. I look forward to our continued service together as we prepare and train our formations for upcoming missions.”
Samulski said it has been a privilege to command the brigade, and he said all the credit for the 116th’s success over the last 31 months goes to goes to the Soldiers, the noncommissioned officers, the warrant officers and officers of the brigade.
“Because of their followership, their leadership, hard work and sacrifice, this brigade continues to excel no matter what is asked,” he said. “Military service is about people, and I can think of no finer people that I would wish to associate myself than with the Soldiers who have continued to serve in this brigade, this division, the Virginia Army National Gaurd and United States Army,”
He recognized the battalion-level command teams of the brigade.
“What we accomplished couldn’t have been done without their leadership and followership,” he said. “It has been an honor to serve with each and every one of you.”
Reed said he has spent most of his National Guard career in the brigade and thanked the Soldiers of the 116th for their service, support and everything they do.
“You are the best of the best, and it has been my honor to serve as your CSM,” Reed said. “We have an outstanding command team coming in.”
Lake thanked Samulski and Reed for leading the brigade through numerous deployments around the globe and yielding a BCT in the state of readiness and experience not seen in quite some time.
“I will endeavor to continue this progression and take the BCT to even greater heights and readiness as we start the next chapter,” he said. “I consider this a privilege and an honor to command the legendary 116th. The journey ahead will be rigorous, but the rewards will be great.”
Wolfe said he couldn’t speak without recognizing those who “trained me, trusted me, pushed me and motivated me to be where I am today.”
He recognized former squad leaders, first sergeants, staffs and commanders at many levels who helped mold this brigade into what it is today.
“I am absolutely humbled to be standing here today,” he said. “I can think of no greater honor than to lead the NCOs of this storied unit. I promise I will do my absolute best to be deserving of the trust placed on me, and together the Soldiers, NCOs and officers of this brigade combat team will continue the legacy of service to community, commonwealth and nation.”
All of the leaders thanked their families, as well as the families of the brigade’s Soldiers, for their sacrifice and service through all the domestic and overseas missions accomplished by the 116th.
The Troutville-based 29th Division Band provided music for the event.
The 116th IBCT is authorized approximately 3,500 Soldiers and is the largest major command in the Virginia National Guard. The 116th has units throughout Virginia from Winchester to Pulaski along I-81, from Staunton to Virginia Beach along I-64, from Danville to Lynchburg to Warrenton along Route 29 as well as Fredericksburg, Manassas and Leesburg. An infantry battalion based in Barbourville, Kentucky, is also aligned with the 116th for training and readiness oversight.
A brigade combat team is the basic deployable unit of maneuver in the U.S. Army and carries with it support units necessary to sustain its operations away from its parent division. The 116th consists of three infantry battalions, a cavalry squadron, a field artillery battalion, a brigade support battalion and brigade engineer battalion.
Read more about the 116th IBCT on va.ng.mil at https://ngpa.us/24351