TORII STATION, Okinawa — The 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group assembled beneath the Okinawan sun on Border Landing Zone at Torii Station June 29 for a Change of Command Ceremony that bookmarked the latest chapter in the storied lineage of the unit.
The Battalion's colors were handed over by outgoing commander Lt. Col. Joshe Raetz to Lt. Col. Ryan Armstrong during the ceremony which is rich in tradition and rife with symbolism. The guidon represents the lineage of the unit as well as the commander's symbol of authority. Wherever the guidon is, the commander is nearby.
During his remarks, Raetz emphasized the readiness of the unit to deploy, fight and win alongside Allied nation's forces — several of whom were represented at the ceremony.
"I know that we are ready to fight and win decisively regardless of the enemy," said Raetz. "While we always train to and remain ready for unilateral combat operations, our specialty is working with and enabling our partner SOF forces," he said. "When our operators jump from planes at night or conduct close quarters battle, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between our Soldiers. We are ready and together we will win."
Raetz credited the Non-Commissioned Officers in the SOF community as being the primary strength of the force and said that their steely commitment and professionalism is evident daily in the "First in Asia" Battalion.
"Our primary strength in SOF is our NCOs," said Raetz who praised his senior enlisted leaders saying, "You both have taught me more about leading warriors than I could have ever learned elsewhere. You personally generated trust in our NCOs and guarded high standards with vengeance.
It is through your leadership that this unit regularly excelled," he said.
The 1st Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group traces its lineage back to both the Office of Strategic Services and the First Special Service Force. Between 1957 and 1972, 1st Special Forces Group Soldiers earned eight Distinguished Service Crosses, 44 silver stars and 244 bronze stars for valor in Vietnam — a tradition of exceptional performance in combat that continues on today's battlefields.
In his closing remarks, Raetz congratulated the incoming commander and said that he is the right commander at the right time to take the helm of the "First in Asia" Battalion.