Col. Lance K. Van Zandt officially took the reins of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Air Cavalry Brigade from Col. Cain Baker during a change of command ceremony Friday on Fort Hood’s Cooper Field.
Van Zandt, a native of San Angelo, Texas, was commissioned as a second lieutenant of aviation in 1996 after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was stationed at Fort Hood from 2002 to 2009 and commanded three companies in combat. He served as the commander of the 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 501st Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, at Fort Bliss, Texas, and deployed an aviation task force in support of Operations Inherent Resolve and Spartan Shield, performing split-based operations between Iraq and Kuwait. His last assignment was as the branch chief of the Joint Staff Force Application Division in Washington, D.C.
“Over the past couple of decades my peers, former bosses, chief warrant officers, sergeants major, NCO’s, soldiers as well as family members and friends, have all contributed to my personal and professional development,” Van Zandt said.“It is a culmination of those inputs and most importantly, God’s grace, that has prepared me for this command.”
Van Zandt thanked the Baker family for his warm welcome to the brigade and the transition into command.
“The two of you and your family have been an absolute class act, thank you very much, it is very much appreciated,” Van Zandt said.
Van Zandt thanked his wife Lydia and daughters Abigail, Shelby and Victoria, for enduring the journey of his Army career.
“I’d like to give a special thanks to the love of my life, my beautiful wife Lydia, for choosing to stand by my side during this journey,” Van Zandt said. “I also want to thank and recognize our daughters; though not given a choice, but nevertheless maintaining a positive attitude as we close one chapter and begin a new one, which really means a new house, new school and making new friends.”
Van Zandt said his daughter Shelby asked him recently what he enjoyed most about being in the Army, to which he replied, “Leading soldiers.”
“I could not be more blessed, humbled and at the same time proud to have this opportunity,” Van Zandt said. “I fully recognize that I am no more than a mere steward of this unit and all of its equipment, but most importantly its most valuable resource, the cavalry trooper.”
Maj. Gen. Paul Calvert, commanding general, 1st Cavalry Division, said the new point man for the brigade, Van Zandt, was ready and able for the job.
“There is no doubt in my mind that you are the right leader to guide this formation as it moves forward,” Calvert said. “You have my full trust, faith and confidence.”
Calvert said the brigadehad been impressive for the previous two years under Baker’s command.
“Their home station train-up, their deployment and redeployment operations distributed mission command of the brigade across three continents,” Calvert said. “The ability to build and generate readiness over time as a committed force has simply been the best I’ve ever seen.”
Calvert said every formation needs a point man and for the air cavalry brigade it has been Cain Baker.
“Cain’s ability to visualize, describe, direct, anticipate requirements, see transitions, understand risks, build relationships and shape outcomes has been discussed,” Calvert said. “More importantly though, has been his love and compassion for troopers and families, commitment to excellence and ownership of accomplishing all assigned missions.”
Under Baker’s command elements of the brigade deployed in support of operations Freedom Sentinel, Inherent Resolve, Spartan Shield and Atlantic Resolve, sending troopers to Europe, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Baker thanked Calvert and others for their leadership and the opportunity to lead the brigade and welcomed Van Zandt to the unit.
“Today the (brigade) gains a leader that I’ve known for years,” Baker said. “Lance Van Zandt is a visionary leader, a warrior and someone that loves being with troopers.”
Baker addressed the formation of soldiers on the field he had commanded during the last two years.
“It’s been an honor of my life to serve with you over the last two years, you never failed to support the ground commander,” Baker said. “Here in the air cavalry we have a motto: ‘Live the life, be a legend,’ each of you are true heroes, you are truly the best the Army has to offer.”
Baker thanked his wife Courtney and daughters Hannah, Caitlin and Ashley for their sacrifices.
“To my wife and best friend, you never once complained about the hours or distractions, you truly serve your country as a military spouse, but most importantly you put up with me,” Baker said. “It’s a team effort, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Baker’s next assignment will be in Washington, D.C., where he will work in the office of the undersecretary for defense for policy.
During the ceremony the brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Lucio C. DeAnda also handed over the reins after two years as the brigade’s senior enlisted advisor to Command Sgt. Maj. Matthew J. Clark.