Military tradition was carried out during a change of command ceremony welcoming the 17th commander the 75th Ranger Regiment at the National Infantry Museum.
Col. Mark W. Odom assumed command of from Col. Michael E. Kurilla at the ceremony hosted by Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.Mulholland said the Ranger Regiment continues to set the standard as the country’s premier direct action raid force.
“These are the men who, night after night, hunt, attack and kill our nation’s most dangerous enemies in their lairs, be they at over 9,000-feet elevation in the mountains of Afghanistan or wherever these evil (enemies) take refuge,” he said. “You have done this continuously since the opening days of the ground campaign in Afghanistan almost 10 years ago and you will continue to do it until our enemies are crushed beneath your boots.”
Speaking to Kurilla’s tenure, Mulholland said, “Through your superb leadership and vision, you have markedly contributed to ensuring that the 75th Ranger Regiment will, indeed, continue to ‘lead the way.’
You have done a magnificent job commanding our country’s joint special operations strike force in Afghanistan and redefined how our nation’s special operations capabilities fight and operate together while ... tearing apart Taliban and al-Qaida networks and sanctuaries within Afghanistan.”
Mulholland also talked about changes to the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.
“This may well be (Kurilla’s) most important and lasting legacy to the Regiment.”
Kurilla spoke to hundreds of family, friends, mentors, Ranger veterans and other guests about the men he led for 24 months.
“Our society places the wrong people on a pedestal — society’s heroes are someone who can catch a football for $24 million, or someone who can sing better than the next. These are not heroes,” he said. “One need only look out at the parade field to see America’s heroes.
“If you look out on the parade field today you will see a little over 40 percent of the entire Ranger Regiment because 45 percent of the Regiment is deployed, and other Rangers are training or in schools. For the last 3,569 days, Rangers have been continuously deployed in combat.
“They are men of character, courage and honor,” he said.
“They are men like Staff Sgt. Merriken, Sgt. 1st Class Kapacziewski, Spc. Bates, Sgt. 1st Class Castillo, Sgt. Honda and Sgt. 1st Class Petry, who recited the Ranger Creed today — every one of them received incredibly significant wounds. Doctors told us that three of them might not live through the night, but they had the will, spirit and heart of a Ranger and refused to allow their wounds to hold them back,” Kurilla said. “They represent 579 acts of valor in the Global War on Terror — stories that have yet to be told.”
Reciting the Ranger Creed is a tradition at the regiment. During this ceremony, it was recited by six wounded Rangers. The first stanza of the Ranger Creed was recited by Staff Sgt. Kanaan Merriken, followed by Sgt. Tory Honda leading the second stanza. Then Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Castillo repeated the third stanza with Pfc. Adam Bates following with the fourth. Sgt. 1st Class Joe Kapacziewski recited the fifth stanza followed by Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, the most recent Medal of Honor recipient, leading the sixth and final stanza.
“I want to acknowledge the individual Ranger — both those on the field and those in Afghanistan preparing to head out on missions in the next couple of hours,” Odom said. “They do our nation’s bidding. In spite of the critics, they seem to universally embrace the mantra, ‘If it is possible, we have done it. If it is impossible, we will do it.’
“Without hesitation, they carry the hopes of our nation every night in Afghanistan; whether it wants to admit it or not, it looks to them to produce victory,” he said. “In short, it is a privilege to be a part of this great organization once again.”