Smoke from 13 honorary cannon blasts settled Monday morning over Founder's Field at Fort Carson, a salute to the 4th Infantry Division Artillery change of command.
Col. Norberto Menéndez will assume command of the 4th Infantry Division Artillery from Col. Michael "Mike" Oeschger. Command Sgt. Maj. Benito Perez Jr. will assume senior enlisted responsibilities of the unit.
Oeschger, who was commander for two years, will move to Boston to act as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's regional defense coordination officer for the northern area.
"It's a tremendous honor that the Army has selected me to continue serving in this capacity and that I have an opportunity to develop these future leaders," said Menéndez, whose unit provides long-range firepower to a front-line military unit.
Menéndez previously was assistant chief of staff for operations for the 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Ga. He also has served as commander of the 37th Field Artillery Regiment in Lewis-McChord, Wash.; operations officer for the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson; and land component planner at the NATO Headquarters Allied Force Command in Madrid, among other positions.
As commander, Menéndez has a clear goal: "Two years from now, if those battalions are better than they are today, that's success."
Perez has served in five campaigns - Operation Desert Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom 1 and 5, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Spartan Shield. His many awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal.
Perez said he hopes to model leadership for his soldiers.
"The impact that we will have as the division artillery for the battalions will help them to grow not just for the 4th ID, but for the Army," he said. "I want to provide the leadership for our soldiers that they need to go out after the military and be the example of where they came from - the U.S. Army."
During his two-year command, Oeschger had to rebuild the 4th Infantry Division Artillery unit from the ground up after its reactivation in 2015. Starting with 40 people and an empty building, Oeschger integrated and trained 2,500 soldiers on fire direction control, master gunnery and other skills required of the unit.
"It's officers like Mike whose insights, candor, expertise, level-headedness and devotion to the team that show why every maneuver commander is given an artillery officer to serve alongside of them," Maj. Gen. Ryan Gonzalez said at the ceremony.
Oeschger expressed confidence in his successors as he said his final goodbyes to his battalion.
"You are the right team to carry this DIVARTY (Division Artillery) forward in the right place at the right time," Oeschger said. "These heroes in front of you have laid a foundation that is rock solid and ready to be built upon by future generations of artillery men and women."