One of Newingtonâ€™s own has been appointed Adjutant General and Commander of the Connecticut National Guard.
Town resident and U.S. Army National Guard Major General Francis J. Evon Jr. accepted the National Guard Colors from Gov. Dannel Malloy at a formal ceremony this past Saturday at the William A. Oâ€™Neill State Armory in Hartford. The change of command also represented the retirement of Major General Thaddeus Martin, the longest-serving adjutant general in the United States.
Evon brings 30 years of military experience to the position, a career that began in 1985 when he enlisted as an anti-tank crewman in the Combat Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 102nd Infantry of the Connecticut Army National Guard.
â€śI started at the ground level and thatâ€™s given me a good perspective,â€ť Evon said this week. â€śI will use the experiences Iâ€™ve had to make the right decisions on behalf of the organization.â€ť
After being commissioned by the Army Reserve Officersâ€™ Training Corps in 1989, Evon rose through the ranks, serving as commander of the 1st Battalion, 102nd Infantry in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. He has earned the Legion of Merit award, the Bronze Star Medal and the National Defense Service Medal with a Bronze Service Star.Â He studied at the University of Connecticut and U.S. Army War College, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance and a Master of Strategic Studies.
Evon most recently served as deputy general to Martin, who led relief efforts in several major natural disasters and deployed Connecticut Army and Air Guardsmen to provide support worldwide. Guardsmen assisted in the aftermath of tornadoes that struck the southern part of the state this past May. Development of defensive operations is ongoing.
â€śThe Connecticut National Guard is well-positioned for the challenges of the future because of the men and women I have been proud to serve alongside,â€ť Major General Martin said upon his retirement. â€śWe are an organization designed around our most important asset - our 4,700 Guardsmen.Â I thank Governor Rell and Governor Malloy for providing me the opportunity to serve my nation and state in such a distinguished role, and have no doubt Brigadier General Evon will continue to push the limits of this organization to a level of excellence not yet seen.â€ť
As the new leader, Evon will be responsible to the governor and the chief of the National Guard Bureau for providing operationally trained, equipped, and mission-ready forces to support both U.S. mobilization requirements and state emergency operations.
He already has several new initiatives in the works since taking command this week.
â€śI think our biggest challenge will be recruiting,â€ť Evon said. â€śLess than half of one percent of Americans serve in any type of uniform and the percentage of young kids eligible to join has decreased. We have some great benefits as an organization. The discipline recruits get in basic training and the leadership skills they develop as they move through the ranks sets them up for success within our organization and all future employers.â€ť
Youths can start learning about what it takes to be a Guardsman as soon as theyâ€™re interested, and can enlist with their parentsâ€™ consent around age 17. The recruitment effort will focus on 18- to 24-year-olds.
Evonâ€™s first and last priority is always the well-being of the stateâ€™s current Guardsmen.
â€śOur soldiers, our airmen and their families are our most important asset,â€ť he explained.
He plans on strengthening the organizationâ€™s relationship with the legislature, to ensure those serving have benefits equal to Guardsmen in other states. There are also plans to build another state armory in the Putnam area.
Even with his new responsibilities, Evon said he will not neglect his local duties as chairman of the Newington Memorial Day Parade.
â€śThat wonâ€™t change. I look forward to serving the town and the community,â€ť he said. â€śThe parade committee is a great group. We always want to remember the fallen and never forget their sacrifice.â€ť
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal was among many state officials to congratulate the new commander, whom he called â€śthe real deal.â€ť
â€śHe is a dedicated professional and patriot, tested in combat and proven as a leader,â€ť Blumenthal said. â€śHe will be an outstanding advocate and role model for our courageous, strong National Guard.â€ť
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or email@example.com.