It was a passing of the torch worthy of the history books on Friday, June 26 as the city’s only U.S. Army recruiting battalion held its time-honored change-of-command ceremony overlooking the Narrows at Bay Ridge’s own Fort Hamilton Army Base.
At the ceremony, which took place just before noon, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Balint assumed command of the battalion from Lieutenant Colonel Michael Stinnett.
“It’s just amazing to have the opportunity to work with our young soldiers as we talk to young men and women in our community about the opportunities that the Army provides,” said Bilant, a Youngstown, Ohio native, “about the lessons they’ll learn, the skills they’ll develop and the experiences that will help them for the rest of their lives. I’m looking forward to talking with the young kids in our community about that opportunity.”
Bilant graduated from Purdue University in 1996 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology (he later went on to earn his Master’s Degree in Defense Analysis-Unconventional Warfare from the Naval Postgraduate School) and most recently served as the Commander’s Initiative Group Director for the Special Operations Joint Task Force (Afghanistan).
His deployments include Operation Restore Hope (Haiti 1999), Operation Iraqi Freedom 2006, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan 2014) and Operation Resolute Support (Afghanistan 2015).
His awards and decorations include two Bronze Star Medals, three Meritorious Service Medals Army Commendation Medals, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Badge, Master Parachutist Badge and the Air Assault Badge.
Upon passing the torch, Stinnett thanked those who have assisted him in his two years at the Fort, including his wife, Karina.
“This concludes my time and opens up a new chapter in history through the Empire Battalion for Lieutenant Colonel Balint and his wife, Shay,” said Stinnett before recognizing a number of very special people. “To my wife, Karina, thank you for being there…and for always cheering me on. It means more than you will ever know.”
The New York City Recruiting Battalion is responsible for all Regular Army and Army Reserve recruiting activities in the five boroughs of New York City, all of Nassau and Suffolk Counties and portions of Westchester County. Organized into six companies and 20 recruiting centers, the battalion is tasked with recruiting an average of 3,000 new soldiers into the Regular Army and Army Reserve annually.