A Roseburg man has been promoted to a high position in the Oregon National Guard.

Lt. Col. Eric Riley became the commander of the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team in a ceremony Saturday, at the Armed Forces Reserve Center Auditorium in Clackamas where the brigade is headquartered.

The 47-year-old Riley moves from his role as the brigade operations officer of the 41st IBCT, where he was responsible for training, operations and plans, and force development and modernization. The promotion will give him much more responsibility.

“Yeah, it’s a big deal, there are only two brigades in the state of Oregon and only one infantry brigade, so for an infantry officer commanding a brigade is really a big deal,” said Riley.

Riley said the Guard looks for someone who is complete with all their military and civilian education and he has done that. He completed U.S. Army War College and obtained his master’s degree.

He also has a history with the National Guard. Riley began his military career in 1993, commissioned directly into the National Guard through ROTC and has been with the Guard his entire military career. He served in both the California and Oregon National Guards and has been in infantry from the start.

His deployment experience included two tours to Iraq, and he also went with a battalion in 2005 in support of Operation Southern Relief for hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The changing-of-the-command ceremony was presided over by Oregon National Guard Adjutant General Michael Stencel.

Col. William Prendergast, the outgoing commander of the 41st Infantry Brigade, was promoted to Assistant Adjutant General. Prendergast once served as a mortar and infantry platoon leader for Charlie Company in Roseburg among other assignments around the state.

“The ceremony is a very traditional ceremony, and very regimented,” Riley said.

During the changing-of-command, the Guard celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 41st Infantry Division, and about three dozen World War II veterans were on hand to take part in that event.

Riley said the brigade is ramping up the training in the collective units to be ready for another deployment if that ever happens. But he added that one of the most important responsibilities of the National Guard is to respond to emergency situations here at home.

“It’s amazing what National Guardsmen do to support their communities, and having done that and participated in supporting communities for natural disasters in the past, it’s a neat benefit that many people don’t realize that our National Guard is there for,” said Riley. “That’s a big deal. We’re always ready.”

Riley’s full-time job in Douglas County is director of the Partnership for Umpqua Rivers. He knows he’s going to be much busier with the added responsibilities and a little more time on the road.

“As a traditional National Guardsman, I have a full-time job here in town and I’m going to have to learn how to balance that. There’s going to be more work in the evenings with phone calls, and lunches may consist of e-mails and phone calls to units occasionally,” said Riley.

Reporter Dan Bain can be reached at 541-957-4221 or e-mail at dbain@nrtoday.com.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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