NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – There was pomp and circumstance Saturday for the Arkansas National Guard Changing of Command ceremony.
The previous head of the Guard, Lieutenant General Mark H. Berry officially retired. A new leader, appointed by Governor Asa Hutchinson, is taking over.
Major General Kendall Penn is now taking over. His career has culminated in this moment.
“I can’t tell you what a huge honor and an unbelievable experience this is,” Penn said. “I joined the National Guard when I was 18 years old before I ever got out of high school.
The main job of Arkansas National Guard soldiers is to help the state in times of need, like being boots on the ground when disasters strikes.
Penn says it’s a job he doesn’t take lightly.
“Those same skill sets that we gain through training for combat also applies when the Governor needs us to respond to an ice storm or a tornado or any other kind of emergency.”
He says one of his goals as the leader is the on-going focus of training.
“Our biggest debt that we own to the public is to make sure that when somebody steps into harm’s way, that they are prepared and they are trained. That they are equipped and that they can operate effectively,” Penn said.
Lt. General Mark H. Berry is passing the torch. He says he has no doubt Penn is suited for the job to protect Arkansans.
“He’s a combat-proven solider that’s very smart. He’ll be able to pick up the ball and run with it and the National Guard will not miss a beat,” Lt. Gen. Berry said.
With the ceremonial aspect over, Penn says he’s ready for the job to begin.
“It’s a humbling experience and I can’t wait to get started.”
We sat down with Lt. Gen. Berry before he retired. Click here to see the conversation.