By Spc. Elijah Morlett
145th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BROKEN ARROW —
Lt. Col. Mark W. Clifton, of Edmond, and Sgt. Maj. James J. Ivy, of Newcastle, took charge of the Oklahoma Army National Guard’s 120th Engineer Battalion on Sunday, serving as the next leaders to build upon the foundations of a unit that traces its history back to World War I.
“No matter what the future brings to us, big or small, we are ready to answer the call,” Clifton said in his first address to the unit. “The past history of the Battalion is written and it was written by you and others. It is a good history that shows what a ready unit can do.”
Clifton and Ivy’s new assignments as the unit’s commander and senior non-commissioned officer formally began with the Change of Command and Change of Responsibility ceremonies at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Broken Arrow. The time-honored traditions call for the Battalion’s former leaders, Col. Jackie R. Ritter of Tulsa and Command Sgt. Maj. Richard D. Raby of Okmulgee to pass the unit colors to the new commander and command sergeant major in the presence of the hundreds of Soldiers they now lead.
This past spring, the Battalion returned from a deployment to Afghanistan, where its members conducted route clearance operations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 120th’s recent history also includes deploying to the Middle East in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, providing disaster relief aid in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and conducting multiple state support missions.
In his departing message, Ritter challenged the Soldiers to continue the drive and professionalism he witnessed during his time as the 120th Engineer Battalion commander.
“With each year, and with every event I witnessed, the Battalion got better and better,” Ritter said to the Soldiers. “I always thought we’d reach a level and just kind of plateau, but that never happened. You never settled for good enough, always worked to improve and always left things better than when you found them.”
After the ceremonial transfers of leadership, multiple awards were presented.
Clifton was awarded the Legion of Merit, the Armed Forces’ sixth-highest award, for “exceptionally meritorious service as deputy director of installation management for the Oklahoma Army National Guard” from 2009-13.
While in this position, he was responsible for the development and supervision of plans for the construction of 13 new facilities, renovations of 23 legacy Readiness Centers and disposal of 61 separate structures — a task he completed in a manner deemed by his superiors as “nothing less than spectacular.”
In addition, the outgoing leaders were both awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for their leadership and distinguished service to the Oklahoma National Guard and the United States Army. Ritter and Raby have a combined total of nearly 60 years of service to the United States military.