February 8th, 2015 marked an emotional and historic day for the 122nd Army Band: the unit's first Change of Command in nearly two decades. After commanding the 122nd for the past 19 years, and for nearly 25 years in total, CW4 Robin Kessler relinquished command of the unit to WO1 Joseph Lewis. The ceremony was presided over by LTC Mark Hatfield, commander of the 371st Special Troops Battalion, who noted Chief Kessler's tenure saw the band complete more than 1,100 missions. Those missions included numerous performances with Ohio's professional and college sports teams, military and civic ceremonies, several public concerts every year, and — most importantly — performances supporting the morale of Ohio National Guard troops in training, deployment, and upon their return home.
The Change of Command ceremony traces its roots back to medieval times, with the passing of the unit's guidon — a military pennant that represents the unit and its commander — from the First Sergeant, to the outgoing commander, to the senior tactical commander, to the incoming commander, and back to the First Sergeant. The passing of the guidon symbolizes the continuity of the command and the passing of the responsibility for the unit's mission and its Soldiers to the new commander.
Mr. Lewis, the 122nd's new commander, is no stranger to the unit. He served 15 years as an enlisted Soldier playing trombone in the 122nd, reaching the rank of Staff Sergeant before attending the Warrant Officer Basic Course in 2014 and returning to the band as a Warrant Officer.
Though no longer the commander, CW4 Kessler remains attached to the 122nd Army Band. As he mused following the passing of the guidon, his role will be something like that of a commander emeritus — "That old guy you always saw in the halls at college, that had an office, but you never really knew what he did." In addition to continuing to serve as a advisor to WO1 Lewis, CW4 Kessler has also been appointed to a position with National Guard Bureau as Deputy Staff Band Officer, overseeing the Nation's fifty-one National Guard bands.
In his 25 years as commander of the 122nd Army Band, CW4 Kessler played a role in shaping the careers of hundreds of Ohio Army National Guard Soldiers, including several that went on to become officers. Around two-dozen 122nd alumni attended the ceremony, turning the time before and after into something of a reunion for band members past and present.
Following the awarding of an Army Commendation Medal by LTC Hatfield to CW4 Kessler , the Soldiers of the 122nd presented their longtime commander with a framed copy of the 122nd's guidon as a token of their appreciation for his many years of service, guidance, and leadership. WO1 Lewis also had a presentation for CW4 Kessler: a hand-painted rendition of the flag of the United States, bearing a quote by then-General George Washington in 1777 that had adorned CW4 Kessler's office door for many years:
"Nothing is more agreeable and ornamental than good music. Every officer, for the credit of his corps, should take care to provide it."