HALLE, Belgium –
Soldiers from the 773rd Civil Support Team bid farewell to Lt. Col. Sandy Sadler and welcomed their new commander, Lt. Col. U. L. Armstrong, during an Oct. 30 change of command ceremony held at a fire station near Brussels.
Sadler passed the unit guidon to Col. Miguel Castellanos, commander of the 361st Civil Affairs Brigade, who then turned to Armstrong and spoke softly as he passed the guidon, signifying the change of command. For Sadler, it was a day for memories, he said.
"Today, I remember who I am behind the insignia. I'm reminded that above all, I'm just a Soldier," Sadler said. "In my career I've had many highlights and memorable moments. My command here has been the highlight of my career. It will be a time that I will never forget."
Rows of Belgian firefighters from Hulpverlenings Zone Vlaams-Brabant West stood in formation beside the U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers in dress uniforms. A color guard from the 7th Mission Support Command presented the U.S. and Belgian flags, the 7th MSC colors and the 361st colors. The 773rd CST is now also part of the 361st.
As Sadler looked out toward the rows of U.S. Soldiers standing in formation beside Belgian firefighters, he spoke of the sense of pride and accomplishment he felt. He departing words for the Soldiers of the team.
"It's been the busiest and toughest of times," Sadler told the troops. "We have never shied away from our duty. We have met our responsibilities with enthusiasm and professionalism. I could not have asked for more."
Under Sadler, the team undertook dozens of missions that exemplified the "Strong Europe" priorities set forth by U.S. Army Europe, to include working with and building capacity between allies and partners. The team completed assignments in Georgia, Moldova, Kosovo, Slovenia, Poland and Croatia. Soldiers also developed new guidelines for their missions, employed equipment upgrades and successfully underwent U.S. Army North validation.
"Lt. Col. Sadler and his team have had their hands full during his time in command," said Brig. Gen. Arlan DeBlieck, the 7th MSC commander.
During the days prior to command, both Sadler and Armstrong joined the team for CBRN Week 2015, an annual event held with firefighters in Belgium. CBRN stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear. Due to their initiative, NATO has requested that the 7th MSC lead the NATO CBRN Center of Excellence, DeBlieck said.
Soldiers presented flowers to the Armstrong's wife, Audra, and small gifts for their daughter, Meaghen, and sons Caleb and Colin. In remarks to the Belgians, Armstrong said the combined training and camaraderie shared was a memorable and valuable experience, he said.
"I look forward to continuing and possibly expanding our future training opportunities," Armstrong said.
To the 773rd Soldiers, Armstrong said their important role -- as the only U.S. Army Reserve civil support team that everyday does an overseas mission -- will continue to test their abilities.
"Make no mistake, we've been given the mission to be ready to respond on what might be a very bad for our country or our partners and allies here in Europe," said Armstrong, citing the risks associated with the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards they train to face. "In this risky environment, we are the tip of the spear."