Army Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson received his fourth star and formally took charge of the National Guard Bureau during an Aug. 3 change of responsibility ceremony led by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va.
“As we’re all aware, this is an important and pivotal time in the history of the National Guard,” he said in his first remarks as National Guard Bureau chief. “We have never been busier, or more visible, and our missions have never been more complex or important. What we do now, and what we do next, will ultimately shape our nation’s future.”
Hokanson, who was confirmed by the Senate on July 20, most recently served as Army National Guard director. In his new role, he succeeds Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, who is retiring after nearly four decades of service.
“For Gen. Lengyel, today marks the culmination of a career that encompasses over 38 years of distinguished service to our nation, beginning with the ROTC [Reserve Officer Training Corps] program at the University of North Texas, and spanning tours in South Korea, Germany, Afghanistan, Egypt, and the most difficult of all, Washington D.C.—just to name a few places,” Esper said.
During the ceremony, Esper praised Lengyel for several accomplishments, including leading the bureau through its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as civil unrest that swelled across the country following George Floyd’s Memorial Day death in police custody in Minnesota.
“Gen. Lengyel took responsibility for our nation’s citizen Soldiers and Airmen, first as Vice Chief, then chief of the National Guard Bureau,” Esper recalled. “In this role, he expertly supported more than 450,000 members of the Guard, as they responded to unprecedented crises at home and abroad, from devastating hurricanes and wildfires, to volcanic eruptions and historic flooding, to the coronavirus pandemic and civil unrest. Despite these daunting challenges, he focused on operational readiness, working seamlessly with governors and Adjutants General, and taking care of service members.”
During the ceremony—and despite being an avowed Boston Red Sox fan—Lengyel did what he deemed “the unthinkable” and quoted New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig, calling himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
Lengyel said this luck was evidenced by his family, team, colleagues, the ability to see his force “perform brilliantly over the past four years as part of the larger DOD team, and especially in the last six months” amid the COVID-19 crisis and civil disturbances, and by the fact that his successor is a dear friend.
Esper expressed trust in Lengyel’s successor, telling Hokanson he has his “full faith and confidence,” and that his “vision and acumen” will help him in his new role.
The Secretary also underscored Hokanson’s fluency in disaster response, noting that his tenure as Oregon’s adjutant general gave him “firsthand experience preparing the state for large-scale, catastrophic events.” Further, Esper said, a so-called “emergency response playbook” that Hokanson created for the state evolved into a model for the rest of the nation and laid the groundwork “for the all-hazards playbook.”
“Today, Gen. Dan Hokanson takes charge during unprecedented and challenging times for our great nation, yet I know that he possesses the character, competence, and wealth of experience needed to excel in this role,” he said.