There is a new commander of Georgia’s military forces following a change of command ceremony at the Clay National Guard Center in Marietta Saturday.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden took command from Maj. Gen. Joe Jarrard in a solemn ceremony that saw a transfer of the Georgia Department of Defense colors and a 13-gun salute fired by the Savannah-based 1st Battalion 118th Field Artillery Regiment. As adjutant general, Carden is Georgia’s senior military officer who oversees the Georgia Army National Guard, Georgia Air National Guard and Georgia State Defense Force.

Carden first enlisted in the Georgia Army National Guard in 1986 as an infantry private. Three years later, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant by the Georgia Military Institute, and has since advanced steadily through the ranks. In 2015, he was selected as Georgia Assistant Adjutant General-Army and in 2017, he was appointed to serve as deputy commanding general of the Multi-National Division, Southeast, a NATO military body headquartered in Bucharest, Romania.

He has deployed in areas including Bosnia and Iraq, and has a long list of military decorations including the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal and Meritorious Service Medal. He and his wife Charlene have two children, Kendall and Kyle.

Carden was selected for his new role by Gov. Brian Kemp, who took the stage with the two generals during the ceremony.

“This solemn occasion represents the passing of the torch from a man of great integrity, a fearless leader under whom distinguished members of our Georgia National Guard have nobly served, to another, in whom I have the utmost confidence and respect to be the right man to lead Georgia’s Department of Defense,” Kemp said.

Carden’s first act as adjutant general was to award the Oglethorpe Distinguished Service medal to Maj. Gen. Jarrard in recognition of his service to the state, and his second act was to award Jarrard’s wife Susan with the Georgia Commendation Medal for her service.

In his first address to his troops, Carden praised the Jarrard family’s service, thanked Gov. Kemp and outlined his top three priorities: “people, people and people.”

“If I’ve learned only one thing in the last 33 years of wearing our nation’s uniform, if we take care of our soldiers, our airmen, their families and employers, they will absolutely crush the mission,” he said. “We will provide ready forces to our governor when our neighbors are in need. We’ll also provide the president of the United States capable, physically fit and lethal combat formations on the ground or in the air, ready to fight and win America’s wars.”

Jarrard was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1988 and has served on active duty for over 20 years. He was named Georgia adjutant general by former Gov. Nathan Deal in 2014. His next role will be as deputy commanding general for the Army National Guard in Europe.

The outgoing adjutant general thanked a long list of mentors, elected officials and Georgia Department of Defense officials for helping him succeed. He gave special thanks to his wife for her years of support, recalling his own installation ceremony four years ago and joking that the line of people waiting to meet her was longer than the line of people waiting to meet him.

“While there are a few people out there that are going to miss me, everybody’s going to miss Susan, so thanks for your service to this organization and to the members and their families,” he said.

Jarrard fought back tears as he thanked the men and women under his command, telling them he is confident Carden will be an excellent leader and telling Carden he was honored to have been part of the team.

“Whenever I sat down in a room with the other 53 adjutant generals, I was proud because I knew I was representing such an outstanding team,” he said. “Again, because of the people that make up this great organization. It is fun to come to work with people who get after it each day, are disciplined, and care for each other. You continue to answer the nations call whenever tasked or respond to disasters whenever they hit here at home … I will be a Georgia Guardsman for life, and it has been the honor of my life to serve as Georgia Adjutant General.”

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