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Fort Drum’s 10th Combat Aviation Brigade welcomes new commander

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FORT DRUM — The new commander of the post’s 10th Combat Aviation Brigade said he relished the chance to lead the unit in a time of transition.

In addition to short-term work such as resetting and refitting equipment and welcoming new personnel, Col. Michael C. McCurry will see the unit modernize its efforts over the next few years, adding things such as new Gray Eagle drones within the next few months.

He said his last job, as deputy director of the Department of the Army Military Office-Aviation at the Pentagon, had him seeing many of the changes coming into place.

“Now to be on this end with the soldiers at the tip of the spear, hoping to train some of the initial units to make that happen, it’s an exciting time,” Col. McCurry said. It’s a return to post for the incoming commander, who served locally in the mid-1990s.

He said his main goal was to get his soldiers prepared for the future.

“Our mission is to be trained and ready for whatever that call may be,” Col. McCurry said.

The new commander was welcomed during a ceremony at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield. He replaces Col. David J. Francis, who has led the unit since July 2012.

Among the highlights for Col. Francis’s time as commander was the brigade’s recently completed nine-month deployment in Afghanistan, during which the unit tallied 110,000 flight hours, conducted 650 air assaults and moved 100,000 passengers. In the buildup to the deployment, the brigade held multiple training exercises at different elevations to prepare for the challenges of overseas. It also helped in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, moving emergency personnel and supplies around the New York City area.

“To pull that off as well as they did was just the mark of a very, very well-trained organization,” said Brig. Gen. Michael L. Howard, the post and 10th Mountain Division’s rear commander.

Col. Francis, during his remarks at the ceremony, said the thing that made him proud of his time in command was his soldiers, and he thanked leaders throughout the brigade for their efforts.

An awards ceremony he attended Wednesday, he said, reminded him of the many acts of heroism displayed by his soldiers. He also took time to remember Capt. Aaron R. Blanchard and 1st Lt. Robert J. Hess, who died during the brigade’s deployment.

“It’s truly an honor to be associated with these selfless servants,” Col. Francis said.

Col. Francis will head to Fort Rucker, Ala., where he will become the deputy commanding officer of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence.

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