For outgoing 48th Brigade Commander Col. John F. King, Sunday morning's change of command and change of responsibility ceremony was bittersweet.
King was honored with a Legion of Merit medal and will be promoted to brigadier general when he assumes his new duties as the director of the joint staff of the Georgia National Guard. But that doesn't make saying goodbye any easier.
"You can't serve for 30 years with a unit (and not be sad)," King said. "Coming to the end of the tour, I'm leaving my family."
King and Command Sgt. Maj, Joseph Recker stepped down from their positions Sunday in an hour long ceremony that included passing the brigade's colors to the new leadership, Lt. Col. Randall V. Simmons and Command Sgt. Maj. Shawn D. Lewis.
Simmons and Lewis inherit a brigade that is rated as one of the best in the nation as it prepares for its next deployment for Afghanistan, sometime before the end of the year.
"We're leaving the organization to a very capable command team," King said.
Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth, adjutant general for the of the Georgia National Guard, noted during his remarks that all U.S. military personnel face an uncertain future because of deployments and possible budget cuts.
"We may go through fiscal restraint, but we will not hollow the force," he said. "I promise you, we will not let this happen."
Simmons, who has served extensively with the 48th previously in his career, was serving as deputy chief of staff for personnel for the Georgia Army National Guard after he had served as deputy commander for the 48th.
"The 48th is one of 27 brigade combat teams in the nation, and they're nationally ranked No. 1 or 2," Simmons said. "There's a lot more flexibility going with this team. We're preparing for any contingency with confidence."
Simmons said that the 48th will deploy to provide security in Afghanistan, and that the mission will be diverse.
"It's not going to be a traditional mission," Simmons said.
Simmons said that while he is taking over one of the best-trained units in the country, there's some big boots to fill.
"This is truly a hard act to follow," Simmons told those in attendance. "But it's like a dream come true for a soldier when you grew up in this brigade, to come back and command it. ... We will train for war and pray for peace."
During his remarks to the crowd, Recker told Simmons and Lewis that while the 48th is capable of looking good while on parade, that's not the brigade's primary focus.
"Do everything you can to make them combat-ready," he said.
Lewis noted to the soldiers their families in the crowd, saying they were who the 48th is fighting for.
"(King and Ricker) assembled a world-class team for us to command," he told them. "Let's get to work."