After two years of commanding the Brainerd-based 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor (1-194 CAB), Lt. Col. Brian J. Melton passed the battalion colors to Lt. Col. Ethan A. Yale on Saturday, Aug. 18 at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center.
The 1-194th (CAB) had a front row seat in history during the drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq in which the unit conducted 780 convoy escort security missions, traveling more than 1.2 million combat miles through 11 of Iraq’s 18 provinces.
Melton kept his change of command speech relatively short as his full speech would be delivered at the unit’s welcome home dinner that evening. He did say that “relinquishing command was a bitter-sweet moment for him, but he wanted all the Soldiers and family members of the battalion to remember all the great things the unit accomplished while deployed to Kuwait.”
Yale thanked Melton during the change of command for all he did for the 1-194th (CAB). Yale pledged to build on the past success of the battalion and keep it moving in the right direction.
Yale also recognized the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Commander, Col. Jon Jensen, for his “trust and support over the years and for giving him the opportunity to command this great battalion.”
The welcome home dinner followed the battalion’s 60-day reintegration event at the St. Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center. During the dinner Melton said his final goodbyes to 1-194th (CAB) Soldiers and families.
“We were part of the largest drawdown of U.S. forces since the Vietnam War,” Melton commented. “We brought everyone home in one piece despite the constant threat we faced on some of the most dangerous roads in the world.”
Guest speakers at the dinner included U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito.
Special guests included Brainerd native Walt Straka, a WWII Bataan Death March survivor, who poured in the final ingredient for the grog and took the honorary first drink. Members of the 194th Tank Regiment Association were also in the audience and were recognized for their continued support over the years.