Lt. Col. David Dailey of Sturgis had officially taken command of the 153rd Engineer Battalion just a day earlier when he returned Sunday to make unofficial visits to one unit under his new command, the Northern Hills' 842nd Engineer Company.

He is not a stranger to senior soldiers in the 842nd. His first assignment as an Army National Guard officer was in 1993 with the 842nd.

At the time, Dailey was a newly-commissioned 2nd lieutenant carrying an equally new civil engineering degree from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

Dailey also had served in Iraq with the current senior enlisted man in the 842nd, First Sgt. Jon Schempp of Gillette. He also served with Froelich when he was commander of the 200th Engineer Company headquartered in Pierre.

Saturday he officially took command of the 153rd at the Huron National Guard armory.

As commander of the 153rd, Dailey is responsible for command and control of about 870 soldiers in 7 units in 14 communities throughout South Dakota. That includes about 160 soldiers in the 842nd in Sturgis, Spearfish and Belle Fourche.

His priorities, he said Sunday, will be recruiting and retention in the units in his command that have been among the state's National Guard contribution to service in the Middle East conflicts. The 842nd returned from Afghanistan a year ago.

"We've got to recover from 10 years of war and be ready for the next 'what if,'" he said.

That could include anything from being called in its state role of disaster assignments or possible assignment overseas in the National Guard's national service role, he said.

In the past the 842nd has used its bulldozers and other heavy equipment to fight Black Hills forest fires and building earthwork berms to protect Pierre from Missouri River flooding.

One of the soldiers he visited with in Spearfish was Sgt. Kenneth Branich of Blackhawk.

Sgt. First Class Pat Froelich of Spearfish said Branich will be on a special exchange program with the United Kingdom's military.

"This year the 153rd Battalion has 40 soldiers going to the U.K.," he said.

The U.K. has sent soldiers to South Dakota in the same program, Dailey said.

Dailey's Sunday visits to the 842nd in Spearfish and Sturgis was informal. In Spearfish he talked with senior sergeants and watched enlisted soldiers cleaning their rifles.

He told the sergeants that he was counting on them to play a major role in soldier training as the 153rd gears up to be ready for any state or national role.

Dailey began his National Guard career in 1988 as an enlistee before he graduated from Custer High School. He received an Army ROTC commission on graduation from SDSMT. At Mines he was an all-conference athlete while working toward his civil engineering degree. He also holds a diploma from the Army's Command and General Staff College.

He deployed to the Middle East during the war with Iraq.

He takes over command from Lt. Col. Patrick Pardy of Howard who held the position since September of 2011. Pardy will be assigned to the Joint Force Headquarters in Rapid City as the chief of the collective training and evaluation branch.

The 153rd assists its assigned units in meeting training, administrative and other requirements to maintain readiness for their state and federal missions.

In civilian life, Dailey is a civil engineer and assistant vice president at Heavy Constructors, Inc., in Rapid City.

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