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NEWS | Oct. 3, 2020

Change of Command for the Ga. ARNG's 1-171st Aviation Regiment

By Maj. William Carraway Georgia National Guard

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Buck relinquished command of the Marietta, Ga.-based 1st Battalion, 171st Aviation Regiment to Lt. Col. Matthew Kukla during a ceremony at the Clay National Guard Center Oct. 3, 2020. Buck has commanded the Dragon Masters of the 171st since February 2019 and mobilized Soldiers and aircraft of the 171st to Kosovo as part of Operation Joint Guardian later that year.

“Thank you for being here today to celebrate the superb leadership team of Christopher and Wendy Buck and welcome the new command team of Matt and Shannon Kukla,” said Col. Jason Fryman, commander of the 78th Aviation Troop Command.

Fryman recognized the efforts of the 171st Aviation Regiment over Buck’s command tenure in overseas operations and domestic emergency response missions.

“Buck has expertly led this battalion, said Fryman. “Training, preparing and deploying this battalion to Kosovo as part of longest standing NATO-led peacekeeping mission while maintaining the highest standards of safety and discipline and then safely redeploying and transitioning the battalion to a domestic mission.”

A native of Georgia, Buck entered the Georgia Army National Guard as an infantryman in 1992 while attending the University of North Georgia. Upon graduation in 1996, Buck entered the Army as an aviation lieutenant His active service took him from Fort Carson to Korea before he rejoined the Georgia Army National Guard in 2005. He is a past commander of Headquarters Company and Company E, 171st Aviation GSA and has previously deployed to Bosnia Herzegovina and Iraq.
Buck recognized the support of his family and Soldiers of the 171st Aviation Regiment in his farewell remarks to the battalion.

“I could not be more proud of this battalion and the way it has performed over the past two years,” said Buck. “From the process of mobilization at Fort Stewart and Fort Hood to mission execution in Kosovo for KFOR 26, I got to see these Soldiers in action. What I saw was hard work, dedication, sacrifice, ingenuity and character.”

Buck called attention to the historic significance of the Battalion’s effort in Kosovo.

“I am proud to say we were part of the peace and stability of the Balkans Region that led to the recent economic treaty between Kosovo and Serbia,” said Buck. “Our presence, along with the other KFOR Soldiers over the years set the condition for this diplomatic breakthrough to be possible.”

Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Kukla assumes command following a career in aviation that has taken him from Fort Hood, Texas, to the Clay National Guard Center. Enlisting in the Virginia National Guard in 1996, Kukla graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 2000 and began his aviation career as an AH-64 Longbow Apache pilot at Fort Hood. He served in company command in Korea and was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and 2007. Kukla joined the Georgia Army National Guard in 2009 and served as operations officer of the 48th Brigade Special Troops Battalion and as the brigade aviation officer for the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Following assignment to the Ga. ARNG joint staff, Kukla served as ARNG liaison to the Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team at Redstone Arsenal, Ala.

Kukla thanked the command team of the 78th Aviation Troop Command for the opportunity to take the 171st Aviation forward and challenged the Soldiers of his new command to always give five percent.

“Five percent is not the low watermark for success,” explained Kukla. “The challenge is to be five percent better tomorrow than you are today. Whether that is physical fitness, education or relationships, pick something within your life and become five percent better at it.”