SANDSTON, Va. – Col. Lapthe Flora took command of the Bowling Green-based 91st Troop Command from Col. Marti J. Bissell May 17, 2015, in a traditional change of command ceremony at the Virginia National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility in Sandston, Va. Brig. Gen. Walter L. Mercer, the Virginia National Guard’s Assistant Adjutant General – Army, presided over the ceremony.
The 91st Troop Command, headquartered at Bowling Green, Va., includes the Petersburg-based 276th Engineer Battalion, the Sandston-based 2nd Battalion, 224th Aviation Regiment, the Fairfax-based Data Processing Unit, the Norfolk-based Joint National Guard Augmentation Unit and the Fairfax-based Information Operations Support Center.
“I have served for many years with both of these officers, and I am very comfortable in the knowledge that the leadership of this great unit is going from one strong leader to another,” Mercer remarked.
Bissell began her military career in 1988 upon graduating from Oregon State University as a distinguished military graduate with a degree in accounting and a commission as an aviation officer. Over the course of her 26-year military career, Bissell has served as a platoon leader, executive officer, VIP support platoon leader, assistant operations officer, company commander, aviation maintenance officer, assistant executive officer, division aviation officer and commander of the Joint National Guard Augmentation Unit. She assumed command of the 91st Troop Command on Aug. 1, 2013.
Bissell also earned a Master of Arts in organizational leadership from Gonzaga University and Master of Strategic Studies from the Army War College. She has completed courses including the Aviation Officer Basic Course, Initial Entry Rotary Wing Course, Aviation Officer Advanced Course, UH-60 Black Hawk Qualification Course, Maintenance Manager and UH-60 Maintenance Test Pilot Course, Combined Arms and Services Staff Course, Reserve Component Multi Functional CSS School, and Command and General Staff College.
Her assignments have taken her such places as Korea, Germany, Fort Riley, Kansas, Fort Belvoir, Va., Sandston, Va., Suffolk, Va. and the Pentagon.
Before accepting a position working for the Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Bissell worked full time on the Virginia National Guard Army Staff as the director of operations and training.
Mercer praised Bissell in his remarks, saying, “In these demanding roles she showed a level of professionalism and an ability to provide relevant advice to her commanders, which earned the trust and respect of her Soldiers and of her senior leaders.”
In her remarks, Bissell thanked those she worked with during her time commanding the 91st Troop Command, especially Command Sgt. Maj. Henry Motley, command sergeant major for 91st Troop Command, and her family.
“This is an unbelievably diverse unit with incredible leadership, talent and skills,” Bissell said. “They can go anywhere and do anything the Army asks them to do. There are none better. By their willingness to serve and their dedication to making the world safer, every day they make a positive difference in their units, in their community, in the commonwealth and this great country. It was truly an honor and privilege to serve as their commander.”
Flora started his military career in 1988 in the Virginia National Guard after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute and has since served in every staff position within 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry Regiment, 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, including as commander of that battalion. Additionally, Flora served as the 116th IBCT executive officer, 29th Infantry Division’s director of operations and most recently as the Joint Force Headquarters – Virginia director of strategic plans. He has successfully completed three overseas deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan.
In his civilian capacitity, Flora is the Senior Applications Engineer with Exelis Night Vision & Communications Solutions in Roanoke, Va., and holds six patent awards related to the AN/PVS-14 and AN/AVS-9 night goggles.
“I have had the privilege of serving with him at the 29th Infantry Division and the 116th IBCT,” Mercer said of Flora. “And I know that Flora is a caring, professional leader who gets results and takes care of his people.”
In his remarks, Flora thanked everyone for attending and especially thanked for Bissell and Mercer with entrusting him with the 91st Troop Command.
“I am proudly accepting this brigade command with humility, gratitude and sincere appreciation,” Flora said. “I promise I will strive to do my utmost best to ensure 91st Troop Command continues to remain ready, relevant, and responsive to our nation, our commonwealth and our community.”
During the ceremony, the 29th Division Band provided musical accompaniment.