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NEWS | May 25, 2023

New Command Team ushers in a new era for the Recruiting and Retention Battalion

By Capt. Cody Stagner, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

The Kentucky Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion changed its leadership team during a ceremony held May 22, 2023, at Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort.

Lt. Col. Jason Mendez took charge of the battalion, headquartered in Frankfort, from Lt. Col. Jacob McKinney, while Command Sgt. Maj. Johnnie Parton turned over his responsibility to Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan Reed.

(Click here for more photos)

Brig. Gen. Brian F. Wertzler provided the keynote address for the ceremony held in front of family and friends of the battalion and its honored new command team.

“The mission of the Kentucky Recruiting and Retention battalion is the most important battalion mission of the Kentucky Army National Guard,” said Wertzler, deputy adjutant general for the Kentucky Army National Guard. 

The Kentucky Army National Guard comprises about 6,500 citizen-soldiers which it uses to fulfill both state and federal missions.

According to Wertzler, without recruiting mission success, the other KYARNG units cannot close with and destroy enemy forces, and they cannot provide mission-ready forces in support of our commonwealth or other states during a domestic emergency.

The day prior to this event, Mendez relinquished command of the 1st Battalion, 149th Infantry, which he commanded since April 2021. 

During his tenure with the “Mountain Warrior” battalion, Mendez’s unit successfully responded to stateside disaster missions and deployed troops on multiple fronts, including the Horn of Africa and south-eastern Europe.

“There is no greater privilege in an officer’s career than to command,” said Mendez, an infantry officer with several years of command experience in his career.

Mendez experienced first-hand the importance of the readiness mission and he welcomed the opportunity to lead Kentucky’s efforts to provide a ready force.

“We consider the priorities of operational units to man, equip and train,” said Mendez. “And it always begins with personnel. This is one team with one focus when it comes to recruitment and retention of our force.”

When McKinney spoke, he thanked the battalion with which he served over the past two years and credited them for the recruiting mission’s success. 

“If the people in this room haven’t done their job properly and Kentuckians are in need, we can’t answer,” he said. “And that just can’t happen. That’s the levity of this battalion and I am proud to have been a part of it.”

McKinney then gave the audience his competence and trust in Lt. Col. Mendez and Command Sgt. Maj. Reed.

Parton, the outgoing top-enlisted Soldier, praised the battalion before signing off as “Strength 7” one last time.

“To the Soldiers of the recruiting battalion, phenomenal job with your work ethic, your dedication, your true professionalism through one of the most critical times of recruiting in the world,” Parton said. “You’ve never quit. And I appreciate the impacts you’ve made on me and my family. I will take that with me for the rest of my life.”

Recruiting was a DoD-wide concern in 2022.

Grateful for the opportunity, Reed made a promise to Parton to continue his legacy and stand ready to meet the mission of the recruiting and retention battalion.

“I plan to uphold the standards set by Command Sgt. Maj. Parton,” said Reed, who brings 20 years of recruiting experience. “And renew our commitment to recruiting the best and brightest into the Kentucky National Guard.”


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