Brigadier General David Pritchett, an Alabama native and Auburn University graduate, was recognized as the new adjutant general of the Alabama National Guard at a change of command ceremony in Montgomery on Friday, Jan. 5.
Pritchett takes over the leadership position from Major General Sheryl Gordon, who retired after more than six years as adjutant general.
Pritchett, who started his military career with the Marine Corps in 1988, returns to his home state after serving as director of the Joint Staff of the Wyoming National Guard as well as a deputy commanding general for field artillery at the Fires Center for Excellence at Fort Sill.
Hundreds of National Guard members, former members, public officials, and others attended the program to see Gordon, Pritchett, and Gov. Kay Ivey participate in the flag presentations that commemorate the leadership change.
In an interview before the ceremony and again during his remarks to the crowd, Pritchett talked about America’s challenges in dealing with China, Russia, and growing instability in the Middle East.
“We live in a very dangerous world,” Pritchett said. “I would argue that what’s going on in our world right now, we certainly have not seen anything on this scale in my lifetime and I would say all the way back to pre-dating World War II.”
Pritchett said his main goal is making sure the approximately 12,000 soldiers and airmen in the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard are ready to respond.
“We owe it to the soldiers, the airmen, their families and the citizens of this state and the citizens of our country to make sure they are the most properly trained and equipped, so that if they have to deploy for domestic operations or to fight and win our nation’s wars overseas, that they are best prepared and equipped to do that,” Pritchett said. “And that will be my main goal, to make sure our soldiers, the airmen, and the families are taken care of.”
Pritchett said recruiting is a strength for the Alabama National Guard and said there is a need to add force structure, which means additional platoons, companies, and jobs for soldiers and airmen.
“Currently we have more soldiers specifically than there are spots for those soldiers in the Alabama National Guard,” Pritchett said. “So we’re over 100% strength. So force structure would mean we need additional units to place those soldiers.
“The flip side to that is the states that aren’t recruiting as well, they will likely lose that force structure. So that’s a conversation we’ll have to have to try to bring that right type of structure to Alabama to have additional jobs for our soldiers and airmen here.”
Ivey saluted Gordon for her service and welcomed Pritchett back to the state.
“First and foremost, I want to express my sincere gratitude, to the 12,000 men and women and their supportive families who serve as protectors and defenders of our great state,” Ivey said. “Let there be no mistake. You form an integral part of the United States military mission readiness.”
Gordon’s retirement marks the end of a military career that stated in April 1980. Gordon called the National Guard “family” again and again during her remarks at the ceremony.
“Today is a very exciting day for the Alabama National Guard,” Gordon said. “We are getting a fantastic new leader to take over the helm of what I have been privileged to run for the past six and a half years. So it’s a great day for us as individuals, but also for our guard family in the state of Alabama.”
Gordon was the first woman to serve as adjutant general for the Alabama National Guard.
“I tend to forget that I’m a female because I have this mindset of I’m a soldier,” Gordon said. But she said believes her example will lead to more women rising to the top of the leadership ranks.
“I have been able to work with our young female soldiers, officers and enlisted, to talk to them, to mentor them, to lead them,” Gordon said. “And to serve as a role model to say, ‘You, too, can do this. And you will do this.’”
Gordon said one of the accomplishments she is proud of during her time as adjutant general is the development of a closer working relationship between the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, which both fall under the adjutant general’s command.
Gordon said the Alabama National Guard has expanded a partnership with Romania that started as a military-to-military exchange about 30 years ago to help the former Eastern Bloc nation become a member of NATO and the European Union. Officials from Romania were recognized in the audience at Friday’s ceremony.
“We’ve done a lot of humanitarian efforts with them, building schools and training camps,” Gordon said. “And they’ve come and trained with us and helped us. They sent a team over with us during COVID. And so we just continue to build that relationship and we’re going to expand it beyond just the military in the civilian and educational sectors.”
Gordon said her best advice to Pritchett was to take care of the family.
“And I mean the Guard family and his personal family,” Gordon said. “And they will take care of you. Because we are so blessed to have the outstanding airmen and soldiers within our organization. I talk about servant leadership. And I’ve known General Pritchett for a long time. And I know that he is the right person to continue that servant leadership mindset and to take our organization to new heights.”