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NEWS | Oct. 17, 2021

Volunteer Brigade hosts change of command, welcomes 29th commander

By Capt. Bryant Wine

The Georgia Army National Guard’s 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team held a change of command ceremony Oct. 17, 2021, at Volunteer Headquarters in Macon, Georgia. U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Dwyane Wilson, commanding general of the Georgia Army National Guard, presided over the ceremony where Col. Anthony Fournier relinquished command to Col. Jason Baker.

Baker becomes the 29th commander of the 48th IBCT, an organization of more than 4,000 Soldiers nicknamed the Macon Volunteers.

“Tony made a very challenging and complex mission look easy,” said Wilson. “The Volunteers have certainly benefited from your leadership, your professionalism and dedication, and most importantly, you ensured that the 48th remained ready, lethal and relevant.”

Fournier assumed command in December 2019 in what was expected to be a period of reset and refit. The 48th IBCT had just returned from Afghanistan, it’s fourth deployment during the Global War on Terrorism.

Beginning in March 2020, the 48th IBCT Volunteers were among thousands of Georgia National Guardsmen activated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Months later, Soldiers under Fournier’s command performed security tasks during protests in Atlanta in June and Stone Mountain in August following civil unrest stemming from the death of George Floyd.

Experience responding to protests paid dividends when the brigade deployed two task forces to Washington D.C. in January 2021 for the 59th presidential inauguration. Georgia was one of the largest contributors of the more than 25,000 National Guardsmen representing all 54 states and territories supporting the mission.

Fournier ensured the 48th IBCT maintained mission essential readiness during this time of frequent domestic operations.

The 48th IBCT also completed a rotation to the southwest border mission under the command of Joint Task Force-North and U.S. Customs and Border Protection during Fournier’s tenure.

The brigade’s 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment, deployed to Morocco in June 2021 for exercise African Lion 21. African Lion was the largest joint, multinational training exercise on the African continent. The Georgia National Guard sent more personnel and equipment to African Lion than any exercise in the organization’s history.

Exercise Noble Partner 20 preceded African Lion. Here, the 48th IBCT deployed hundreds of Soldiers to the country of Georgia in September 2020 to train with multinational and active-duty partners. The Georgia National Guard possesses a formal partnership with the county of Georgia under the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, a relationship that formed in October 1994.

Fournier passes to Baker a brigade with proven capability, whether at home or abroad. Fournier’s next assignment is with the Georgia National Guard joint staff as director, training and exercises.

“Soldiers of the 48th Brigade, I couldn’t be more proud of all you have accomplished,” said Fournier. “To go from combat operations in Afghanistan to switching gears a few months later, and being polite, professional Soldiers is nothing short of incredible. You did your jobs and you did it well; You saved lives and made a difference in the lives of our Georgia citizens.”

Baker, a native of Indianapolis, Indiana, has served in command positions from company to battalion level, and is no stranger to the Volunteer Brigade.

Baker served as executive officer of the 48th IBCT during the brigade’s 2014 deployment to Afghanistan. He then served as the squadron commander of the Calhoun-based 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, from 2014 to 2016. Baker had previously deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division and returned to Iraq in 2006 with a military transition team.

In addition to combat deployments, Baker’s international experience included a stint as bilateral affairs officer in Tbilisi, country of Georgia, from 2009 to 2011. Later, he served as exercise director of exercise Agile Spirit 19 in the country of Georgia.

Baker most recently served as the Georgia Army National Guard’s deputy chief of staff for personnel at Clay National Guard Center in Marietta, Georgia.

“We will continue to train to win,” said Baker. “I am excited to be back in the brigade, and I am fully aware that the brigade demands, requires and deserves the best leadership.

The 48th IBCT wears the patch of the 3rd Infantry Division as part of the Total Force Protection Program. The program aligns National Guard units with active-duty units to enhance training and deployability. 48th IBCT’s alignment with 3rd ID is the first in the program’s history when the relationship began in March 2016, then called the Associated Units Program.

The 48th IBCT is comprised of units whose history and battle honors predate the American Revolution. Its colors bear the campaign streamers of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Seminole War, the American Civil War, both World Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan. The list of commanders for the 48th IBCT encompass those of the 48th Infantry Division (1946 to 1955); 48th Armor Division (1956 to 1968); 3rd Brigade, 30th Infantry Division (1968-1973) and the 48th Brigade (1973 to present).