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A Wardsville man, whom the governor selected in July as the new head of the Missouri National Guard, took control of the organization in a Saturday afternoon ceremony.

Brig. Gen. Levon Cumpton became the first new senior officer for the state in a decade.

Since February 2009, Maj. Gen. (retired) Stephen Danner has held the adjutant general position.

Gov. Mike Parson praised Cumpton's 26-year record of service to the country and state — first in the U.S. Army and then as a full time National Guard member — during the ceremony under the sun at the Ike Skelton Training Site, 2302 Militia Drive in Jefferson City.

Parson, who credits his rise to the governor's office with his six years of military service that began when he was 19, said he wished to share some the wisdom he has picked up over the years.

"When I talked to Gen. Cumpton, I said it must be a pretty good feeling to go from colonel to general overnight," Parson told hundreds of people during the ceremony. "I thought that might be a pretty good feeling. I'm going to tell some of you enlisted people something else — to go from sergeant to commander-in-chief is not a bad deal either."

Parson's remarks came moments after the ceremonial changing of the organizational colors. This ceremony signifies the passing of command. The organizational colors symbolize the unit is freed, and has unity, strength and courage.

Sgt. Major Will Pierce, the command's senior enlisted soldier, is the keeper of the colors and representative of the loyalties and concerns of soldiers and airmen in the guard. He is an advisor to the commander. During the ceremony, he passed the colors to Danner, the outgoing commander, as a last act of allegiance to Danner.

Danner then passed the colors to Parson, the commander-in-chief, symbolizing the unit is never without leadership.

Parson handed the colors to Cumpton as a symbol of his trust passing to the incoming general, as well as Cumpton's responsibility to the unit and its soldiers.

At that point, Cumpton assumed command. Cumpton then passed the colors back to Pierce as a symbol of his confidence in the non-commissioned officers' corps.

The ceremony is a special occasion that is deeply meaningful to Missouri and the United States, the governor said.

"One of the most important and impactful things a governor can do is surround himself with great leaders — this includes the military leaders of the state," Parson said. "I tell my cabinet leaders all the time — it's never, ever about being the best. It's about making the people around you better. That is true leadership."

The state wants its National Guard to be the best in the country, he said, and to be held to the highest standards.

It must represent the values of honor, integrity and patriotism, he continued.

"These values must be reflected in the National Guard leadership and spread down to everyone under command of the adjutant general," Parson said.

Danner devoted four decades of his life to serving the state and nation, and helped the Missouri National Guard strengthen its reputation for commitment, outperforming expectations and operational excellence, the governor said.

"Thank you so much," Parson said.

Cumpton represents military values, family and faith, he said.

"I consider myself a blessed man," Cumpton told Parson. "Thank you for your faith and confidence in me. I'll give you my best, my very best — and our guard the very best."

Cumpton said he has watched folks like the Missouri Department of Public Safety serve the residents of Missouri over the years. Guardsmen are excited to be part of that team, he said.

"I recognize that it is our family and friends that are the underpinning of our success," Cumpton said. "I'll never forget that as we continue to manage these great demands placed on our families, I'll always remember our families. We'll make time for you — because without you, we can't do what we do."

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