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‘Natural leader’ takes over NM Guard

Brig. Gen. Kenneth A. Nava, the new adjutant general for the New Mexico National Guard, is congratulated as Gov. Susana Martinez looks on at the change of command ceremony Saturday morning at Kirtland Air Force Base. (Matthew Reisen/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The New Mexico National Guard has a new leader.

Brig. Gen. Kenneth Nava was installed as adjutant general as hundreds of military personnel and onlookers, joined by Gov. Susana Martinez, gathered at Kirtland Air Force Base’s Hardin Field Saturday for the Guard’s change of command ceremony.

“Today’s a special day for the men and women of the New Mexico National Guard,” Martinez said before a large formation of uniformed personnel.

The ceremony also inducted Jerry Garcia as incoming command sergeant major.

The governor called Nava a “natural leader” with a “keen understanding” of the National Guard’s strengths and challenges.

“I’m looking forward to continuing to work with him to lead and support the men, women and their families that serve our state and country,” Martinez said, while recognizing his predecessor, Brig. Gen. Andrew Salas, for his decades of service.

Salas will move on to a new assignment with the U.S. Air Force, according to the Governor’s Office.

Nava had served as deputy adjutant general, overseeing all Army National Guard matters in the state and serving as principal liaison to various officials from senior military to local government. As adjutant general, he serves as the senior military adviser to the governor and assumes responsibility for over 4,000 soldiers and airmen and more than $96 million in state and federal funding.

“I’m grateful for Governor Martinez’s leadership and her continuing support,” Nava said. “I’m humbled to have the opportunity to continue to work with her to lead the men and women who give so much to keep us here in New Mexico safe.”

Nava, a University of New Mexico alum, enlisted in the New Mexico Army National Guard in 1988 and, over the course of his career, has commanded units at the battery, battalion and brigade levels.

New Mexico National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry H. Garcia speaks at the change of command ceremony at Kirtland Air Force Base Saturday. (Matthew Reisen/Albuquerque Journal)

Incoming Command Sgt. Maj. Garcia said he is looking forward to serving all members of the New Mexico National Guard.

“I graciously accept this assignment that I’ve been blessed with,” he said. “I plan to do everything I can to make things better to move our organization forward.”

Garcia joined the National Guard in 1989, serving tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Hurricane Katrina and Operation Noble Eagle. Garcia has been decorated with the Bronze Star Medal and Meritorious Service Medal, among others.

New Mexico National Guard Adjutant General Brig. Gen. Kenneth A. Nava addresses attendees at the change of command ceremony Saturday. (Matthew Reisen/Albuquerque Journal)

During her speech, Martinez expressed gratitude toward New Mexico National Guard members, past and present.

“I thank you for what you do every single day and that you are ready when you are called,” she said. “You are New Mexico’s heroes and my heroes.”

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