With subdued parachute wings and combat infantry badges fixed upon their chests, one Special Forces operator ascended to become one of the Colorado Army National Guard's highest ranking men of color, while the other now prepares to become the COARNG's newest land component commander.
"I stand before you a proud Citizen-Soldier," said the Col. Kenneth D. Chavez as he took command of Theater Special Operations Detachment-Korea at the Colorado National Guard state headquarters in Centennial, Colo., May 4.
TSOD-K is one of only eight standing Army Special Operations detachments in the nation.
The newly promoted Chavez also joins a small group of Hispanic officers to achieve the rank of colonel in the Colorado Army National Guard.
"It is an honor to serve in the Colorado Army National Guard, and it is a privilege to be placed in command of this unit," he said.
Chavez, a 33-year veteran of the Colorado Army National Guard and a 35-year veteran of the Denver Police Department, said he couldn't emphasize enough the honor and privilege of serving his fellow citizens as a traditional Citizen-Soldier.
"I serve my city, I serve my state, and I serve my nation," said the Haiti, Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina and Iraq veteran. "It's exactly the same way our forefathers , the Minutemen, did when they put down their plows and grabbed their muskets to make sure we had a free nation. We will now do our best to always serve this state and this nation to the best of our abilities."
However, before Chavez could take full charge of his unit, Col. Donald P. Laucirica, the outgoing TSOD-K commander, ensured his replacement had the proper gear: a standard-issue green notebook, a new shoulder patch, and a BlackBerry.
Laucirica will formally take the post of Colorado Army National Guard land component commander May 19.
Laucirica closed his change-of-command speech with a dedication to his former Soldier, the late Sgt. 1st Class Mark Jenkins, who passed away in January 2012.
"Not everybody is here who I'd have liked to have made it to this ceremony," Laucirica said. "It's kind of a sore spot for me, that's why I waited until the last: as a (noncommissioned officer) I owe him. He was the happiest guy I knew, facing some of the most traumatic things a person should have to face -- cancer. It's dedication like his that makes any of these things possible."
In advance of his new assignment and pending promotion to brigadier general, a number of his former Soldiers praised his leadership style.
"What inspires me about Col. Laucirica is his professionalism and his straight-forward attitude," said Staff Sgt. Eric Mitchell. "He's very fair and consistent to noncommissioned officers, warrant officers and officers alike. He gives a lot of responsibility to NCOs. He doesn't look at them as per their rank, but what they can accomplish and do within their units." "He is a commander who truly cares about his Soldiers," said Sgt. 1st Class Rex Beach.