Sunday, August 22, 2021

Changes of Command for Historic Georgia National Guard Infantry Battalions

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard


1st Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment Feb. 22, 2021 in Winder, Ga. and Feb. 1, 1918
at Camp Wheeler, near Macon, Ga.


Citizen Soldiers of the Georgia National Guard’s historic 121st Infantry Regiment welcomed new leadership in change of command ceremonies this weekend.

On August 21, the Soldiers of 3rd Battalion 121st assembled at their armory in Cumming, Ga. as Lt. Col. James McKnight relinquished command to Maj. Christopher Roberts. McKnight commanded the Pathfinder Battalion since Jan. 11, 2020.

Lieutenant Colonel James McKnight(right) transfers the colors of the 3rd Battalion 121st Infantry to Col. Anthony Fournier,
commander of the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Aug. 21, 2021 at the Cumming Regional Readiness Center to symbolize his relinquishing
of command of the Pathfinder Battalion. the incoming commander, Maj. Christopher Roberts stands left. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

Joining the Georgia National Guard in 2012, Roberts commanded Headquarters Troop of the Calhoun-based 1st Squadron 108th Cavalry. He has additionally served as chief of operations for the Macon based 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team during the brigade’s deployment to Afghanistan in 2019.

Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Eminger receives his first salute as commander of the 1st Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment during a change of command ceremony
 in Winder, Ga. Feb. 22, 2021. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

On August 22, the 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry bid farewell to Lt. Col. Matt Johnston and welcomed incoming commander Lt. Col. Wesley Eminger during a ceremony at Winder-Barrow High School in the battalion’s hometown of Winder, Ga. Eminger, whose most recent assignment was with the 3rd Infantry Division Main Command Post Operational Detachment has spent many years in the 121st Infantry Regiment during which he mobilized twice to Afghanistan.  

Major General Tom Carden, Georgia’s Adjutant General and Brig. Gen. Dwayne Wilson, commander of the Georgia Army National Guard confer with
Lt. Col. Matt Johnston, commander of the 1st Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment in Forsyth, Ga. Jan 15, 2021 as units of the 48th IBCT prepare to
support inauguration security operations in Washington D.C. and Georgia. Photo by Maj. William Carraway

McKnight and Johnston both assumed battalion command in January 2020 just months after the 121st returned from Afghanistan, and both led their battalions through unprecedented domestic operations. Within weeks, the Soldiers of 1st and 3rd Battalion were again deployed, this time in support of the coordinated response to the Coronavirus pandemic in Georgia. The battalions provided personnel to staff infection control teams which disinfected long term care facilities across the state to improve the odds of survival for the elderly. Their Soldiers also embarked on medical support team missions augmenting operations at hospitals such as Northeast Georgia Medical in Gainesville and Athens Regional Medical Center. 

An infection control team comprised of Soldiers from 3-121 completes a disinfecting mission at a long-term
care facility in Gainesville, Ga. April 23, 2020. Photo by Sgt. Lauren Garrison

As civil unrest gripped the nation in May, Soldiers of the 121st Infantry augmented law enforcement at multiple locations around the state. Many of these same Citizen Soldiers would again be called to duty in the wake of unrest in Washington DC January 6.

Lieutenant Colonel James McKnight, second from left, briefs Soldiers of 3rd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment on expectations during security operations at
Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta  May 30, 2020. Photo by Capt. Edner Julien
The events of 2020-2021 are just the latest chapter in the storied history of the 121st Infantry Regiment. Units of 121st Infantry served overseas in World War I and later in World War II where the Regiment earned the Presidential Unit Citation. The 3rd Battalion inactivated from 1968-2016. In the interim,  Soldiers of 1st Battalion mobilized to Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan. In 2018 the 121st Infantry Regiment deployed overseas with three battalions for the first time since 1944 and returned home the following year.

Soldiers of the 121st Infantry Regiment provide security in support of inauguration preparations Jan. 19, 2021. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class R. J. Lannom.


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