By ANGIE CARNATHAN
The 2nd Battalion,114th Field Artillery wished Lt. Col. James L. “Jim” Sisson a fond farewell Saturday and welcomed its new commander, Lt. Col. Tom Crosby, at the National Guard Armory in Starkville.
Sisson, who has been commander for over three years and a soldier for 23 years, is leaving his position for a job in Tupelo as the fire support coordinator for the brigade. Red roses were presented to his wife, Maj. Beth Sisson, in appreciation of her service to 2nd Battalion, 114th Strike.
Sisson said his family has always been very supportive of his duties with the National Guard. His wife is also in the guard.
Sisson was in charge of at least 466 soldiers in his time as battalion commander. He said he’s enjoyed his time there but is looking forward to moving ahead.
“They always say the best two days of being in command are the day you accept command, like Lt. Col. Crosby did today, and the day you give it up,” Sisson said. “It’s been a great ride, and it’s the best job you’ll ever have in the military for a soldier.”
Crosby, who currently lives in Atlanta, Ga., said he has stayed in the Mississippi National Guard because his trips to the state give him a chance to spend time with his mother, Patricia Brown, of Columbus. Brown was on hand at the ceremony and was presented a bouquet of yellow roses in appreciation of her support.
Crosby said the new command is a huge honor and agreed with Sisson that it was the best job in the Army.
“To be a battalion commander is just phenomenal,” Crosby said. “Only 16 percent of lieutenant colonels get to be a battalion commander.”
As commander, Crosby will be in charge of overseeing all types of training, including some administrative duties.
“As petty as this might sound, we have to make sure everyone’s insurance paperwork is properly filled out because those things are important,” Crosby said. “We had an experience in Iraq with a soldier that was attached to us from another state. His paperwork wasn’t filled out properly, and when he unfortunately passed away, it took us over three weeks to find his next of kin and notify them and make sure they received his life insurance. To help with the grief of the family, some soldiers may not think that is the most important thing, but it is a part of our job.”
The battalion has moved away from its artillery training in the last few years, and Crosby said he is looking forward to getting back into it.
“We haven’t shot a bullet in three and a half years,” Crosby said. “For me, the best part of this job will be getting us back to where we were in 2007, doing our real artillery mission and being able to shoot.”
Crosby said the guard had changed tremendously in the last three or four decades and he hopes that people realize the immense amount of work the men do for their country and their communities.
“It’s not the sort of thing where people just come in and hang out and don’t really do anything while they’re here,” he said. “Not only do they have to know their artillery training, they have to know how to use a chainsaw. When we have floods, hurricanes, tornadoes -- we’re usually the first ones there lending support.”