Keeper watches over change of command

When the 287th Sustainment Brigade held a change of command ceremony on Sunday, the outgoing commander, Col. Robert Schmitt, had one request: Don't have it in a building.

And so, on the north banks of the Arkansas River, across from Wichita's iconic Keeper of the Plains statue, the command was passed from Schmitt to Col. Barry Taylor.

Schmitt told the crowd of about 100 people that there had never been a boring day in the three years he had been assigned the Kansas Army National Guard's 287th commander's position.

His first day on the job? Just happened to be in May 2007, when a historic tornado nearly wiped the town of Greensburg off the map. His troops were assigned to the cleanup.

Not long afterward, his troops were called to help clean up after floods in Southeast Kansas. Then, they were called again to help Kansans in the aftermath of ice storms and blizzards. Then, deployments took them halfway around the globe to Iraq.

"When you look at what we have done... People say you can watch history pass you by or you can make history," Schmitt said. "This organization has made history from the first day of my brigade command when I got that phone call from Greensburg at 4:30 a.m. to mobilize your battalion, we made history."

Schmitt entered the U.S. Army in August 1983, after receiving his commission from the University of Missouri-Rolla. He served on active duty until July 1992. He then joined the Kansas Army National Guard where he was ordered to active duty service three times, serving as the division logistics officer in Bosnia in 2002-03; commander of the 169th Corps Support Battalion from 2004 to 2006; and commander of the 287th Sustainment Brigade.

The brigade's new commander enlisted in the Kansas Army National Guard in May 1982. Taylor has been deployed twice overseas, as the deputy chief of the Joint Military Affairs Detachment in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2003 and as the deputy commander of the 287th Sustainment Brigade in Iraq in 2008-09.

He told the audience gathered Sunday, "It is an honor to be selected to command a brigade.... As commander... I will continue to build on the traditions of excellence established for this brigade in both peace and war. We will continue our steadfast support of the war fighter and continue in the high degree of leadership and soldier care."

The brigade's headquarters are in Wichita, and the 287th Special Troops Battalion is at Hays. The brigade was mobilized Oct. 1, 2008, and deployed to Iraq from Nov. 17, 2008, to Sept. 19, 2009.