Silhouetted by the 15-foot tall statue of Col. Arthur “Bull” Simons at the John F. Kennedy Memorial Plaza, Lt. Col. Basil J. Catanzaro took command of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion from Lt. Col. Herbert Joliat, June 8.
The ceremony’s presiding officer, Col. Jay Wolff, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade commander, began his remarks by describing the battalion as “…the original, the roots of the active component (civil affairs) regiment. Every battalion, every brigade command sergeant major and commander have cut their teeth in this battalion. Over the last two years, Soldiers from this battalion have deployed across the CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command) area of operations, from Lebanon to Pakistan, from Yemen to the central Asian republics and most counties in between.
“The work has been phenomenal. The number of accolades from ambassadors and supported commanders has simply been amazing. In my nine and a half years associated with this organization, it’s the best it’s ever been. This didn’t happen by accident. Over the past two years this organization has grown another two companies and deployed and redeployed both of them. They weathered unprecedented personnel turnover. The Soldiers of this battalion, while deployed and in garrison, have made the impossible possible, the difficult seem easy,” Wolff said.
“To the Soldiers of the 96th, it’s great to be back home. You look great, and I look forward to working with you all. I pray to God to bless our nation and the men and women of this great battalion,” said Catanzaro.
Catanzaro previously served as a team leader with the battalion after graduating from the Civil Affairs Qualification Course in 2003. He then served with the 82nd Airborne Division as a brigade civil affairs officer, before returning to the 96th CA Battalion as its operations officer. He most recently served as the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade civil liaison team chief.
A native of Peekskill, N.Y., Catanzaro enlisted in the Army in 1986 and served as an infantryman and as a military intelligence NCO with the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis, Wash., and the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion at Fort Bragg. After graduating from Officer Candidate School, he served as a platoon leader with the 3rd Ranger Battalion, then in various positions with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood Texas, before joining the civil affairs community.
Catanzaro has a bachelor’s degree in Russian studies from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. and a Master’s Degree in Defense Analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, Calif.
“While most of the credit goes to the Soldiers, none of this would have been possible without Herb’s (Joliat’s) steady leadership. He assumed command of this great battalion and continued to make it better ... His care of Soldiers is unmatched and he ensured our most precious resource, our nation’s sons and daughters, were taken care of,” Wolff said.
As a testament to Joliat’s performance of duty, before the start of the change of command ceremony, Wolff presented Joliat with a Legion of Merit before a battalion formation.
In addressing his Soldiers for the last time at the ceremony — a formation conspicuous by the absence of most of its Soldiers because of ongoing deployments — Joliat began by thanking the battalion’s Family readiness group and its support assistant, R.C. Smith. “Even before I thought of doing something, she had it done already — unbelievable asset to the battalion.”
Joliat also thanked his command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Ted Martin, describing him as “my right hand man, co-partner and co-baseball coach. I can always trust his sound judgment and advice.”
Turning to his Soldiers, Joliat said, “In the end, the success of the battalion falls squarely on the hard work and dedication of my company commanders first sergeants, team leaders and NCOs … They are the epitome of the quote you see on that statue (of Col. Bull Simons) right before you: ‘Who will go? Send me.’”
In closing, Joliat paused to gather his composure before thanking his wife Leslie for her support. “She created an environment that draws Families toward the organization to make every battalion Family event a huge success.”