By MAUREEN ROSE
Gold Standard Acting Editor
Army noncommissioned officers love to tell troops, “If it ain’t rainin’, we ain’t trainin’.”
The Soldiers of Fort Knox’s 4th Cavalry Brigade were training Friday as the command colors were passed from Col. John Prairie to Col. Christopher Kennedy in a ceremony that saw intermittent drizzle on Brooks Field.
The senior reviewer was Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bailey, commander of the First Army Division East. He told the audience that Prairie’s leadership at the 4th Cavalry Brigade was outstanding and one that deserved emulation.
“His life has been one of unyielding commitment to the Army and to Soldiers,” Bailey said. “He led by example and made the Army first among competing priorities in his life.”
One of the 4th Cav’s primary responsibilities is training Provincial Reconstruction Teams for duty in Afghanistan. Bailey said Prairie’s dedication to duty ensured those PRTs were always well trained and ready for their missions. Although Prairie is a people person, he focused on the systems of the brigade as well and made sweeping improvements throughout the unit. Those improvements included better scores on Army physicial fitness tests while 100 percent of all awards and evaluations were submitted on time.
Bailey told the audience that he was equally certain that Kennedy would do a good job as the new leader of 4th Cavalry Brigade.
“I could not be more confident in his abilities,” the general said. “He’s had tours in Kosovo and three combat tours in Iraq; he has the perfect skill set to lead the unit.”
In his farewell remarks, the outgoing commander explained that while he anticipated a busy schedule before taking command of the brigade, he was surprised.
“I had no idea how fast the pace here was,” he said. “The time just disappeared, but now my command here is history.”
Emotional throughout his remarks, Prairie thanked family, friends and leadership for their trust in him.
“No one could ask for better mentors,” he said.
Prairie also thanked the officers of his command team for their cooperation rather than competition.
“I know I’m not easy to work for and sometimes I’m downright difficult,” he acknowledged to his audience, which often laughed in agreement.
The Soldiers of the unit were also thanked.
“To the Soldiers on the field, you stand there in the rain, nice and wet, just like I want you to be,” he told them in a teasing tone of voice that changed as he choked out his words of thanks.
“Troops, the profound emotion you stir in me is humility because it’s very humbling to see how hard you work...I think this is the best unit in the division and, in my heart, I know it’s the best in 1st Army,” he said.
The new commander also thanked the family and friends in the audience and assured the troops that they would be dry very soon.
He praised Prairie and family for reaching out to him and making the transition into the command the best he’d ever experienced.
An armor officer, Kennedy completed Officer’s Candidate School in 1991. His assignments have taken him to Friedburg, Germany; Fort Lewis, Wash.; Alexandria, Va.; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Benning, Ga.; Washing-ton, D.C. as well as three tours in Iraq. Most recently, he was the chief of the Maneuver, Fires and Effects Division at Human Resources Command.
Kennedy’s decorations include a Bronze Star (with two oak leaf clusters); Meritorious Service Medal (with five oak leaf clusters); Army Commendation Medal (two oak leaf clusters; Army Achievement Medal (one oak leaf cluster); National Defense Service Medal (second award); Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal; Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon (third award); Combat Action Badge and Army Parachutist Badge.
The new brigade commander holds a Master of Military Arts and Science from the American Military University and a Master of Strategic Studies from the Army War College. He and his wife, Janet, have one son, Ethan, who attends Meade County High School.