“This is an opportunitiy to give back so much of what the regiment has given me to be a member for these young leaders at multiple levels.”
Lt. Col. Stephen Smith
Commander, 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment
The new commander for the 4th Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment on Joint Base Lewis-McChord is no stranger to the regiment.
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Smith said he knows there are some big shoes to fill; he took command of the 4-160th SOAR during a ceremony Tuesday outside the McCants Hangar on Gray Army Airfield.
“I thank you for your great service to our great nation,” Smith said. “I am truly humbled to serve with you.”
Smith comes to 4-160th SOAR after serving in the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C. He graduated from Appalachian State University in 2000 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the aviation branch.
After completing Aviation Officers Basic Course, he went to the 228th Aviation Battalion and worked his way up to company commander for the battalion’s Charlie Company. Following the 160th SOAR Green Platoon, he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment where he served as a platoon leader and operations officer.
From 2009 to 2011, Smith served as a 160th SOAR special mission unit liaison officer and regiment operations officer. In 2011, he attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in Leavenworth, Kan., before returning in 2012 to take command of Charlie Company, 1-160th SOAR and later serving as the battalion’s operations officer and executive officer.
During his speech, Smith thanked his family and the outgoing commander, Lt. Col. Michael Mannion. He also gave credit to Col. Philip Ryan, the regional commander for 160th SOAR, and Col. Scott Wilkinson, the deputy commanding officer for 160th SOAR.
“I would not be here without your trust and confidence,” Smith said. “I am a better officer for knowing you both, and I am deeply grateful for the leadership and the mentorship. I won’t let you down.”
He most recently served the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C. Smith said having such a long history within the regiment has prepared him well for commanding the 4-160th SOAR.
“The pluses are I know a lot of the senior leaders, and I know how the system works,” he said. “It helps to step into the job and not have to take 60 to 90 days to understand.”
Smith has certainly collected several awards and decorations during his years with the Army. Among them are the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star Medal.
Additionally, Smith said he plans to take on the role of an adviser for service members in his battalion who want to rise through the ranks within the regiment.
When he looked out upon the companies in formation during the ceremony, Smith said he saw potential.
“With an organization that has such a tremendous culture and reputation, the short term goal is getting to know the organization and to find out what are the things that my position can help to refine and maybe make better,” he said. “This is an opportunity to give back so much of what the regiment has given me to be a member for these young leaders at multiple levels.”
Smith has never been stationed at JBLM or Washington, but he said he’s heard great things about the base community and the civilian sector. His immediate family includes his wife Jessica, daughter, Reagan, and mother-in-law Michele.
“Actually, the reputation drove me to move off (base) and to be more a part of the community after work,” Smith said.
Mannion will be taking his wife, Lisa, and their two sons, Michael and Ryan, to Fort Campbell, Ky. Mannion is set to become the deputy commander at the 160th SOAR headquarters.
Although he’ll be a little more than 2,400 miles away, Mannion will still be involved with the 4-160th SOAR. He said he knows it’s going to be in good hands.
“It’s sad to leave, but great to see my best friend, Lieutenant Colonel Smith, take over,” Mannion said.