New York's 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Welcomes New Commander

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Lt. Col. Joseph Biehler

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (04/05/2013)(readMedia)-- Lt. Col. Joseph Biehler, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, takes command of the New York Army National Guard's 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, headquartered in Syracuse on Saturday, April 6.

Biehler replaces Col. Geoffrey Slack, who commanded the 27th Brigade Combat Team since August 2009. Slack trained and deployed the brigade for operations in Afghanistan and Kuwait in 2011 and 2012.

WHO: Lt. Col. Joseph Biehler, Col. Geoffrey Slack, and Citizen Soldiers of the 27th IBCT, their family members, former members and friends.

WHAT: Change of Command Ceremony to formally recognize the transfer of authority for the 27th IBCT from Col. Geoffrey Slack, outgoing commander, to Lt. Col. Joseph Biehler, incoming commander.

WHEN: 10 a.m., Saturday, April 6. Media must arrive at the main gate at 9:30 a.m. for access to the installation.

WHERE: Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Main Hangar, Syracuse, N.Y. 13211

Coverage Opportunities:

Video and still imagery of Soldiers in formation and the transfer of the brigade colors from Col. Slack to Lt. Col. Biehler. There will be an opportunity to interview both incoming and outgoing commanders.

Members of the media wishing to cover the ceremony must contact Maj. Jeffrey Brown, 174th Attack Wing Public Affairs Officer, (315) 663-8734, by close of business on Friday, April 5 in order to gain access to this secure military facility.


The Change of Command:

The Change of Command Ceremony dates back to the days in which a military unit's flag marked its position in the line of battle. The colors were always near the commander, so troops knew where to rally on the battlefield. Today the transfer of the colors marks a change in the unit and givens the soldiers their first opportunity to see and hear their new leader.

The change of command ceremony recognizes the accomplishments of the outgoing commander and the Soldiers who served under him. In addition, the ceremony identifies the new commander to the Soldiers, so they can follow him on the field of battle.

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Biehler:

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Biehler was commissioned as an Infantry officer in May 1987 and joined the New York Army National Guard. He has held positions as a rifle platoon leader, mortar platoon leader, support platoon leader, company commander, battalion supply, operations and executive officer, division liaison officer, and battalion commander.

His last assignment was as commander of the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry. He was the battalion's operations officer during its deployment to Iraq in 2004 and commanded the battalion during its recent deployment to Afghanistan in 2012 as Task Force Iron. The Task Force mobilized in January 2012 and deployed to Afghanistan where it was responsible for enhancing the capability of the Afghan National Security Forces to secure Highway One in from Herat City to Nimroz Province in western Afghanistan.

Biehler is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Infantry Officer Advanced Course, Combined Arms Staff Service School, Intermediate Level Education, Infantry Pre-Command Course, Airborne School, Air Assault School, and Ranger School.

He is currently enrolled in the Army War College, a military school for senior Army leaders.

Biehler was born in Rochester, New York and graduated from McQuaid Jesuit High School in 1983. He has earned Bachelor's of Science degrees in both Accounting and Management from St. John Fisher College in 1987 and is a Finance Senior Manager for Rochester's Harris Corporation in civilian life.

Biehler's awards include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal National Defense Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal, and Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Basic Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Ranger Tab, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

His new position will also bring a promotion to Colonel.

He and his wife Sonya live in Webster, N.Y. with their twin sons Thomas and Andrew.

Colonel Geoffrey Slack:

Col Geoffrey Slack has served in the Active Army and Army National Guard since 1979 when he graduated from Hofstra University. After leaving the Active Army in 1982, where he served in the 1st Infantry Division, Col. Slack served in the Individual Ready Reserve before joining the New York Army National Guard in 1987. As a member of the National Guard he served as an infantry company commander, a headquarters company commander, logistics officer, division staff officer, and operations and executive officer.

He assumed command of the 1st Battalion 69th Infantry, made famous as the "Fighting 69th" in the Civil War and World War I, in 2000. On Sept, 11, 2001 he and his battalion mobilized to respond to the attacks on the World Trade Center and he deployed his men to "Ground Zero" the next day. Soldiers from the 1-69th went on to guard the United States Military Academy at West Point and airports in the days following the 9/11 attacks.

In the spring of 2004 the 1-69th Infantry was mobilized to deploy to Iraq as part of the 256th Infantry Brigade from the Louisiana Army National Guard. The battalion trained for 6 months and then deployed to Baghdad. During that deployment the battalion was tasked with securing the road from the Baghdad International Airport to downtown Baghdad, known to the Army as "Route Irish." At that time the road was known for being the most dangerous stretch of road in Iraq and the 1-69th Infantry effectively shut down the insurgency on that stretch of road.

Following his return from Iraq Col. Slack was named the operations officer of the 42nd Infantry Division and went on to receive a Masters of Strategic Science at the Army War College. He is also a graduate of Command and General Staff College and the Basic and Advanced Infantry Officer courses.

Col. Slack's hometown is Mastic Beach, NY. He and his wife Debbie have two children, William and Mary.

His awards include the Bronze Star Medal, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, seven Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, the Army Achievement Medal, the Parachutists badge and the Air Assault badge.

He retires from military service later this year.

27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team:

Today's 27th Infantry Brigade Combat team is a descendent of the New York National Guard's 27th Division of World War I and World War II.

During the 1st World War the 27th Division served under British command with the U.S. 30th Division and played a key role in breaking through German defenses known as the Hindenburg line and ending that conflict.

In World War II Soldiers of the 27th Division fought their way through the Pacific, invading and capturing the Island of Saipan, where division units survived the most ferocious Japanese Banzai attack of the war, and the islands of Makin and Eniwetok before landing on Okinawa.

In 1955 the Division became an armored division and in 1967 it was reorganized into a brigade under the 50th Armored Division, headquartered in New Jersey. In the 1980s the 27th Infantry Brigade was designated as a "round out" unit to the 10th Mountain Division and in 1995 it became one of the National Guard's "enhanced brigades" designed to deploy early to a conflict.

The brigade reorganized after 2001 as an Infantry Brigade Combat Team. The brigade's 3,500 Soldiers are stationed across New York from Farmingdale on Long Island to Jamestown in Chautauqua County and Morrisonville in the North Country in four combat and two support battalions.

In 2007 the 27th IBCT began training for deployment to Afghanistan and in January 2008 mobilized to lead Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VII for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The 27th IBCT transferred mission authority in December, 2008 and returned home to New York by early January, 2009.

The 27th Brigade began training preparations again in 2011 for deployment to Afghanistan. In 2012 the brigade was reassigned for multiple missions in Kuwait, other Persian Gulf states and Afghanistan instead, and Slack led 1,750 New York Soldiers from the brigade during that deployment.

Brigade Soldiers also responded to help New Yorkers deal with Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Tropical Storms Irene and Lee in 2011.