FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. – The Missouri National Guard's only engineer brigade has a new commander.
Col. William Blaylock II recently took over for Brig. Gen. Randy Alewel, who has been the unit's commander since February of 2010, after a change of command ceremony at the U.S. Army Engineer Museum's regimental room at Fort Leonard Wood.
Blaylock, who lives in Eureka, called command of the brigade the dream job of a Missouri Guard engineer officer.
"I never expected I'd be able to get to this point," he said. "I'm humbled. I'm here because of the noncommissioned officers and junior officers that I've worked with who have done things to put me in a good light. It's all about them."
Alewel, who lives in Warrensburg, called the ceremony bittersweet.
"You never want to leave a successful command with a great group of Soldiers, officers and noncommissioned officers, but at the same time, I'm giving it to a great officer," Alewel said. "Col. Blaylock is going to be an outstanding commander and he will continue to raise the bar for the whole organization here at the engineer brigade."
The brigade, headquartered at Fort Leonard Wood, is the higher headquarters for all Missouri Guard engineer assets. The unit undertakes plans, integrates and directs the execution of engineer missions conducted by the 1140th Engineer Battalion, headquartered at Cape Girardeau, and the 203rd Engineer Battalion, headquartered at Joplin, with their respective subordinate units; and when federalized, mobilizes with three-to-five mission tailored engineer battalions and augments engineer units organic to corps and division.
Maj. Gen. Stephen L. Danner, adjutant general of the Missouri Guard, said Blaylock was an easy choice to take command of the brigade.
"I don't think there is any doubt among the senior command section that Col. Blaylock is an absolutely outstanding candidate to be the new commander," Danner said. "I know his personal dedication and the talent background that he brings to the job. There really wasn't anyone else in my mind to fill the shoes of Brig. Gen. Alewel other than Col. Blaylock."
Danner said in the past, Blaylock has been a crucial component in the Guard to assist the citizens of Missouri during disasters.
"I've worked with him these last four years as a task force commander," Danner said. "He's done an exemplary job on several different state emergency duties."
For the performance of Alewel as brigade commander, Danner had nothing but praise.
"Randy has been outstanding," Danner said. "He has been an exemplary commander and one I hope many young officers emulate."
Although Alewel has been a standout in his former position, Danner said a change in doctrine no longer allowed Alewel, as a brigadier general, to serve as brigade commander.
“As of October 1 of this year, all the National Guard engineer brigades that formerly had a brigadier general commander are now aligned with the active component engineer brigades that have colonel commanders,” Danner said.
Alewel will now move to a position at Ike Skelton Training Site in Jefferson City as the Joint Force Land Component Commander, which had been unfilled.
“With his expertise and capabilities, it’s a perfect fit,” Danner said of Alewel’s new job.
“That’s just part of life – unexpected changes occur,” Alewel said of his unexpected change in jobs. “But at the same time, with the position that I’m going into, I’ll be able to share some of these things that we are doing in the engineer brigade with some of the other brigades.”
As part of Alewel’s new responsibilities, the engineer brigade will continue to report to him.
“We only have so many general officer positions to fill against ranks and it was important to me that we continue to have a senior brigadier general in this brigade because of the many state emergency duties the unit responds to,” Danner said. “I like continuity and this move brought continuity throughout the brigade and the force. I think that’s very important in this day and age.”
Alewel said his goal for his new position is Soldier care.
“I want to continue to take care of Soldiers, make sure that they have challenging and realistic training, and that they have the resources to accomplish any mission that they are asked to do,” he said.
For his service in command, Alewel was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal.
“You never expect to receive anything for just doing your job,” Alewel said. “So it was a surprise and I was honored.”
Among his other military awards, Alewel has a Legion of Merit Award, a second Meritorious Service Medal, and a Silver and Bronze Order of the DeFleury Medal
Reflecting on his time in command, Alewel, who has been in the Guard for more than 31 years, credited the Soldiers for the successes of the brigade.
Alewel is a 1980 graduate of Concordia High School and graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor’s of Science in animal science in December of 1983. He also earned a Masters Degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College in 2006.
In his civilian career, Alewel is the third-generation owner of Alewel’s Country Meats, a meat processing business that started in 1932 and is now located in Warrensburg. Alewel, who has run the operation since he graduated from Mizzou, said he appreciated his employee’s contributions to his success, as well.
Alewel is supported in his military career by his wife, Teresa, and their three children, Austin and Kayla, who both live in Columbia, and Paige, who lives at home, as well as his extended Family, to include his employees.
Blaylock returns to the unit from Joint Force Headquarters at Ike Skelton Training Site in Jefferson City where he was the director of strategic plans and exercises. He has been the brigade’s deputy commander, as well as the commander of the 1140th. He’s also served as the aide-de camp for the commander of the brigade, as well as a company commander and platoon leader in the 1140th.
His goal as commander is to build on the accomplishments of the brigade and his predecessor.
“Brig. Gen. Alewel put the brigade in a great direction,” Blaylock said. “I want to continue developing the relevancy of the brigade. We’ve got some very important missions that we are tied into. I want us to continue to be the best engineer fighting force in the country.”
Throughout his career, Blaylock, who has been in the Guard for 27 years, said he has had some great mentors.
“I’ve worked with great officers and noncommissioned officers along the way,” he said. “They’ve redirected me when I need to be and warned me when I was headed in the wrong direction. I’ve had some great examples to put into my tool kit that I can look at and say, ‘This is what I need to do.’”
Among Blaylock’s military awards are a Bronze star, Meritorious Service Medal and the Bronze Order of the DeFleury Medal.
A 1984 graduate of Parkway North High School in St. Louis, Blaylock earned a Bachelor’s of Science in elementary education four years later from Southeast Missouri State University, in Cape Girardeau. In 1994 he added a Masters Degree in arts and teaching computer resources from Webster University.
During the week, Blaylock serves as the director of technology for the Rockwood School District in Eureka, where he lives with his wife and two sons.
Blaylock is supported in his military career by his wife, Jill, and their two sons, Ian and Austin. He added that his father, William Blaylock Sr., who is now deceased, was an incredible influence on him.