Missouri Guard medical unit gets new commander

In the traditional passing of the unit's guidon, outgoing commander Maj. James Risner hands the 206th Area Support Medical Company colors to battalion commander Lt. Col. Rebecca Segovia, who then passes the flag to incoming commander Capt. Paul Caldwell. The unit's 1st Sgt., Brian Jones, begins and ends the ceremony with the guidon. (Ann Keyes/Missouri National Guard)

By Ann Keyes

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - In an emotional ceremony in Springfield, Capt. Paul Caldwell assumed command of the 206th Area Support Medical Company from Maj. James Risner.

"I am truly grateful to my leadership for the opportunity and privilege to be entrusted with command of the 206th Area Support Medical Company," said Caldwell. "I believe the assumption of command is the assumption of responsibility. As the commander, I am responsible for everything and everyone assigned to this great company. I take this responsibility as the greatest honor of my military career."

Caldwell, of Palmyra, comes to the unit from its higher headquarters, the 229th Multifunctional Medical Battalion based in Jefferson City. He deployed to Iraq with the 205th Area Support Medical Company in 2008, leaving him working alongside some of the Citizen-Soldiers of his new unit.

The 206th Area Support Medical Company, located in Springfield, also has a detachment in St. Louis. The unit was created in 2005 as a result of reorganization. The company started as the 735th Company F assigned to the main battalion in Poplar Bluff. In 2008, the 206th was placed under the command and control of the 229th Multifunctional Medical Battalion where it remains.

The company has participated in local state emergency duty relief efforts and has sent Soldiers in support of hurricane Katrina in 2006 and hurricane Gustav two years later. The company was mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in July 2006, earning a Meritorious Unit Commendation from the 15-month deployment.

Risner, of Lees Summit, will return to his previous unit, 110th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in Kansas City, where he serves as an operations officer and fulltime training officer.

"It has been an honor and privilege to serve as the commander of the 206th," said Risner. "In the last year I have seen the best Soldiers this state has to offer answer the call time and again, whether for state emergency duty or overseas deployment. I'm proud to have served alongside them."

Risner feels the unit is in good hands with Caldwell, he added.

"Capt. Caldwell's experience, drive and vision will mesh well with the professionalism and 'get it done' attitude of the 206th," he said.

In his formal remarks to those at the assumption of command ceremony, Caldwell thanked his wife, Jaclyn Caldwell, for her unwavering support. Jaclyn was also given a bouquet of yellow roses as a welcome to the company. Following, the unit cut a large cake in honor of the National Guard's 375th birthday.

The National Guard traces its origins to the militias of the 13 original English colonies in North America. The oldest units were organized on December 13, 1636 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony militia. This makes the Guard the oldest component of the armed forces of the United States, and one of the oldest military organizations in the world.

Caldwell is up for the opportunity to follow in other's footsteps, he said.

"I consider the true measure of success leaving something better than you found it. Maj. Risner was challenged when he took over the 206th from the very successful command of Maj. John Jurgensmeyer, his predecessor. Not only did Maj. Risner sustain the outstanding reputation of the 206th, he established new benchmarks for achievement. My goal is simple, to achieve what my predecessors did before me, by leaving this company better than I found it. This is a tall order but I am up for the challenge," Caldwell said.

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Capt. Paul Caldwell (front left) leads the 206th Area Support Medical Company following a December assumption of command ceremony in Springfield. (Ann Keyes/Missouri National Guard)

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