1/109th FA honors Lt. Col. Start during change of command

By Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Keeler | July 28, 2020

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. —

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – In a steady rain, the 1st Battalion, 109th Field Artillery held a change of command ceremony on July 19, 2020.

“Congratulations Lieutenant Colonel [William] Start on a job well done,” said Col. John Pippy, commander of the 55th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. “Whenever the commonwealth has called for support, the 109th Field Artillery has answered that call.”

The 1/109th FA’s first commander, Col. Zebulon Butler, assumed command on October 17, 1775. Start, the 58th commander of the 1-109th FA, and Maj. Michael Tornambe, the incoming commander, became the 59th.

The change of command ceremony involved Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry Ressler, command sergeant major of the 1/109th FA, passing the battalion colors to Lt. Col. Start. Start then passed the colors to Pippy, who then passed the colors to Maj. Michael Tornambe, the incoming commander. Tornambe then returned the colors to Command Sgt. Maj. Ressler. This tradition simulates the outgoing commander relinquishing command of the battalion to the commander of the brigade, who then charges the new battalion commander with their duty.

“The things that we have done, and the places that we have been, I never would have thought of,” said Start. “Who would have thought we would be wearing masks? Or, because of COVID-19 that we would have had distributed learning drill?”

Start credits the leadership of the battalion’s officers and noncommissioned officers with the development and mentoring of the high-quality of the Soldiers of the battalion. But he also challenged the Soldiers to keep working.

“Take what you can from your NCO and make this unit better year after year, so someday you will be able to look back at the end of your career and say, ‘I made a contribution to something bigger than myself – this 109th Field Artillery,'" said Start.

Having worked with Tornambe in the past, Start knows the kind of leadership and skills that Tornambe brings to the battalion.

“[Major Tornambe], I know that in the future unexpected things are going to happen; that is the nature of our business,” Start said. “But if I can do it so can you. It is us working together through it that will be most important. I know that you have all the skills from when I’ve worked with [you] and I know this unit has all the skills to do whatever is asked of them.”

For the Soldiers, Start wanted them to know his appreciation for their hard-work through his time as their commander.

“Thank you for everything that you have done for this battalion, and to continue to remember, ‘Arrowhead steel, En Avant!'" he said.