Army Space Soldiers from the 117th Space Battalion, Colorado Army National Guard, took a step back in time for a Change of Responsibility ceremony at the Jet Center Brown Hanger by the Colorado Springs Airport Oct. 14.
The occasion saw departure of outgoing Command Sgt. Maj. Dean R. Parsons and welcoming of incoming Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph A. Thill.
Unique to this ceremony, however, was the absence of a noncommissioned officer's sword. Instead, a halberd was passed between the outgoing in incoming leaders.
Halberds were used by NCOs in the 15th and 16th centuries to manage and direct formations in battle. NCOs also posted their halberds outside their tents so troops could easily find their leaders.
On June 13, 2011, in keeping with the Army's back-to-basic movement, the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy decided to resurrect the centuries-old symbol of NCO authority. Today, the halberd will represent the authority of the NCO corps. This historic icon and emblem is specific and unique to the NCO corps and its history.
The halberd bearer for this change of responsibility ceremony was Pfc. Ryan See, the youngest Soldier currently assigned to the 117th Space Battalion.
"Today we witness the transfer of responsibility of the fourth command sergeant major for the battalion," said Lt. Col. Martin Bortolutti, commander of the 117th. "This battalion is unique and very specialized. We are educated both in the military and civilian world. We are mature with both rank and age. And indeed, we facilitate all the capabilities of space to help the theater commander make his or her decision.
"Today we have a new sergeant major for this unique battalion. I don't want necessarily a Green Beret, an MP (military police), or even a space operator," Bortolutti said. "What I want is a sergeant major ... one who can guide the troops ... form them up, and simply state, 'I'm the pivot, guide off of me.' Or if needed, 'About face Soldier and do your duty.'"
In his departure speech, Parsons reflected on his time in the battalion.
"So how have I done as a leader? You always look for that one little thing that someone says or does," he said. "It was said to me just yesterday, and I didn't even realize it until my drive home."
Parsons explained that a Soldier in the battalion came up to him and told him he would be in attendance for the ceremony even though he was not required to be present.
"I told him, 'Go home and spend time with your family,' but he said, 'No. You are my sergeant major.' And at that point, I know I have succeeded in leading Soldiers. And nothing else can be said. I wish you the best. I hope to see you around. Drive hard. Thank you very much."
Thill, the battalion's newest command sergeant major, also addressed the Soldiers in formation.
"We need to be enthusiastic more than ever, because people need to know what enablers and force multipliers you are," he said. "What we make up for having small numbers in this battalion, we make up in big mission and high payoff. And what you do is important every single day. And you need to understand that at the strategic level what you do saves lives on the battlefield, and allows us to engage and destroy our enemies with precision."