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Minnesota National Guard
1-194 Armor Changes Command, Conducts Welcome Home Dinner

After two years of commanding the Brainerd-based 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor (1-194 CAB), Lt. Col. Brian J Melton passed the battalion colors to Lt. Col. Ethan A Yale on Saturday, Aug 18 at the St Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center

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The 1-194th (CAB) had a front row seat in history during the drawdown of US forces from Iraq in which the unit conducted 780 convoy escort security missions, traveling more than 12 million combat miles through 11 of Iraq’s 18 provinces

Melton opened his change of command speech with “good morning bastards”  This battalion goes by the moniker “Battling Bastards”  The nickname pays tribute to the 194th Tank Battalion brethren who endured the infamous World War II Bataan Death March and are forever known as “The Battling Bastards of Bataan”  

Melton kept his change of command speech relatively short as his full speech would be delivered at the unit’s welcome home dinner that evening  He did say that “relinquishing command was a bitter-sweet moment for him, but he wanted all the Soldiers and family members of the battalion to remember all the great things the unit accomplished while deployed to Kuwait”

Yale thanked Melton during the change of command for all he did for the 1-194th (CAB)  Yale congratulated all the “Bastards” in attendance and pledged to build on the past success of the battalion and keep it moving in the right direction 

Yale also recognized the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, Commander, Col Jon Jensen, for his “trust and support over the years and for giving him the opportunity to command this great battalion” 

The welcome home dinner followed the battalion’s 60-day reintegration event at the St Cloud River’s Edge Convention Center  During the dinner Melton said his final goodbyes to 1-194th (CAB) Soldiers and families  

“We were part of the largest drawdown of US forces since the Vietnam War,” Melton commented  “We brought everyone home in one piece despite the constant threat we faced on some of the most dangerous roads in the world” 

Melton reminded the audience that from July to December 2011 there were 14 vehicle borne improvised explosive devices, 182 improvised explosive devices, 28 explosive formed penetrators, 48 small arms fire incidents, 17 complex attacks and 12 semi-truck hijackings along the main supply routes of Iraq where the battalion’s 36 convoy escort teams traveled “The focus, determination and professionalism you maintained during the retrograde of US forces from Iraq was second to none,” said Melton

Guest speakers at the dinner included US Sen Amy Klobuchar and Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito 

Special guests included Brainerd native Walt Straka, a WWII Bataan Death March survivor, who poured in the final ingredient for the grog and took the honorary first drink  Members of the 194th Tank Regiment Association were also in the audience and were recognized for their continued support over the years    

The 194th Tank Regiment Association is a Brainerd-based volunteer organization consisting of retired military members who have selflessly supported 1-194th (CAB) events throughout the years and made this event possible   

By Cpt John Hobot
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
Aug 21, 2012

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