Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a number of command changes being made in the senior leadership of the 10,500-member New York Army National Guard. Changes of command have been announced for three brigade-level colonel commands and two battalion lieutenant colonel commands. A new deputy commander has also been named for one of the Army National Guards two general officer commands.
New Yorks National Guard has stood strong in their courageous efforts to defend our nation abroad and protect our citizens here at home, and todays announcement is further recognition of the exemplary dedication and leadership that our guardsmen and women demonstrate each day, Governor Cuomo said. I congratulate the new leaders of the New York National Guard on their promotion in rank, and on behalf of all New Yorkers extend my gratitude for their continued service protecting our state and nation.
Col. James Pabis, Deputy Commander of the 53rd Troop Command
Col. James Pabis, a veteran of the Iraq War and a Saratoga Springs resident, has been selected to serve as deputy commander of the 53rd Troop Command, one of the two New York Army National Guard commands headed by a general officer.
Headquartered at Camp Smith Training Site near Peakskill, the 53rd Troop Command is responsible for about 4,300 National Guard Soldiers in military police, engineer, transportation, signal, and logistics support units. Pabis, president of Saratoga Source, LLC, a professional recruiting firm, currently serves as the commander of the 153rd Troop Command headquartered in Buffalo.
Lt. Col. Jack James, Commander of the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade
Lt. Col. Jack James, currently the commander of the 642nd Aviation Support Battalion which is now serving in Kuwait, has been picked to command the Latham-based 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade. He will be promoted to colonel when he assumes command of the brigade.
The brigade headquarters along with Company A of the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation, also from Latham, and the 642nd Aviation Support Battalion based in Rochester, all deployed to Kuwait in December 2013. The brigade is expected to return home in mid-summer.
James will replace Col. Albert Ricci, who has led the brigade since 2012. Ricci will retire after a 30-year Army career.
James has commanded the 642nd Aviation Support Battalion since Nov. 2011. The 642nd provides aviation maintenance and logistical support to helicopter units of the brigade. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point who began his military career in 1992. James joined the New York Army National Guard in 2002. He is currently residing in the state of Florida but is originally from New York City.
Lt. Col. Christopher Guilmette, Commander of the 204th Engineer Battalion
Lt. Col. Christopher Guilmette, a Voorheesville resident, replaced Freehart as the commander of the 204th Engineer Battalion on April 15.
Guilmette has served in the Army National Guard since 1997, when he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Maryland Army National Guard. He joined the New York Army National Guard in 2005. In civilian life Guilmette is a principle at kW Mission Critical Engineering, a Troy technology engineering company. He has served as a traditional part-time Guard Soldier and a full-time Guard officer.
Western New York
Lt. Col. James Freehart, Commander of the 153rd Troop Command
Lt. Col. James Freehart, a Troy resident and a veteran of the Afghan War, has been selected to command the Buffalo-based 153rd Troop Command. He will replace Pabis as 153rd Troop Command commander. Freehart's previous assignment was as commander of the 204th Engineer Battalion, which is headquartered in Binghamton and has elements in the Hudson Valley, Horseheads, and Walton.
Freehart took command of the 204th Engineer Battalion in 2011. Under his command the unit responded to Tropical Storms Irene and Lee and Superstorm Sandy, as well as summer flooding in the Mohawk Valley in 2013. The battalion has also deployed soldiers to Germany and Afghanistan while under this command.
Freehart first enlisted in the Army in 1981, serving in Operation Urgent Fury, the invasion of Grenada in 1983, and joined the New York Army National Guard in 1987. He served in Afghanistan in 2008 as a training advisor to the Afghan Army. In his civilian life Freehart is employed as a federal technician in the Division of Military and Naval Affairs facilities engineering office in charge of environmental compliance.
Lt. Col. David Gagnon, Commander of the 106th Regional Training Institute
Lt. Col. David Gagnon has been tapped to assume command of the 106th Regional Training Institute at Camp Smith Training Site near Peekskill. Gagnon, a Military Police officer and veteran of the Iraq War, currently serves as Chief of Protection for the 42nd Infantry Division in Troy. He replaces Col. Michael Natali who will move into the position of intelligence officer at the New York National Guard headquarters. Gagnon is a Certified Public Accountant and a partner in the firm of Daniel D. Gagnon CPA, PC and lives in Stone Ridge with his wife Nora and daughter Andrea.
Lt. Col. Michael Charnley, Commander of the 642nd Aviation Support Battalion
Lt. Col. Michael Charnley, an Ogden resident, has been selected to replace James as commander of the 642nd Aviation Support Battalion. The battalion is headquartered in Rochester and has elements in Olean, Dunkirk and Ronkonkoma. The battalion, which provides logistics and maintenance support to the 42nd Combat Aviation Brigade, is currently deployed in Kuwait and expected home in mid-summer. Charnley works as a dual-status technician for the National Guard, at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Rochester.
He has served as the intelligence officer for the 1st Battalion 142nd Attack Helicopter Battalion, and a platoon leader and company commander in the 249th Medical Company (Air Ambulance). He deployed to Kuwait in 2012 and served as the garrison commander of Camp Arifjan, one of the key American military facilities in that country.
Command Sgt. Major Louis Wilson, Command Sergeant Major of the New York National Guard
The New York National Guard has also picked Command Sgt. Major Louis Wilson, a retired Rochester police officer and veteran of the War in Iraq, to become the states top enlisted Soldier.
Wilson, a member of the New York Army National Guard for 38 years, has served as a sergeant major, the top Army enlisted rank, since 1999.
He has served as the Command Sergeant Major for the 1st Battalion 156th Field Artillery in Kingston, the Engineer Brigade of the 42nd Infantry Division in Buffalo, the 153rd Troop Command, also in Buffalo, and is currently the Command Sergeant Major of the 53rd Troop Command.
The Army pairs an enlisted Soldier with an officer in all command positions. The sergeant major of an Army unit is the top enlisted leader in that unit and acts as a direct advisor to the commander on training and discipline for the unit.
Wilson will replace Command Sergeant Major Frank Wicks, also a veteran of the Iraq War, who has held that position since 2011. Wicks, a West Sand Lake resident who has been on leave from his position as a civilian employee of the New York State Police, plans to retire from the New York Army National Guard on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
Wilson joined the New York Army National Guard in January 1976 as an artilleryman and was first assigned to the 1st Battalion, 209th Field Artillery in Rochester. He deployed to Tikrit, Iraq in 2004 and 2005 with the Engineer Brigade of the 42nd Infantry Division.
Wilson is a 2002 graduate of the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy and holds an associates degree in food service administration from Monroe Community College. He retired from the Rochester Police Department after 20 years on the force.