Topsham Army recruiting battalion changes command in precursor to BNAS closure

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TOPSHAM — With much pomp and circumstance and with their families and friends looking on, Lt. Col. Wade Murdock passed command of the New England Army Recruiting Battalion to Lt. Col. Patrick Macklin on July 17.

As part of the base realignment and closure process at Brunswick Naval Air Station, the battalion will move to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in the summer of 2011. Since the commander tends to rotate out every two years, last week’s ceremony, held at Mt. Ararat Middle School, may be the last of its kind in Topsham.

The battalion, based at the Navy annex, is in charge of all army recruiting stations in Maine, New Hampshire, eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. More than 100 soldiers from those areas participated in the change of command ceremony, during which Murdock symbolically passed the colors to Macklin, who comes from Fort Lewis, Wash.

“This is hugely significant in the life of any military organization,” said James Allard, chief of advertising and public affairs for the battalion. “When the command changes … you’re bringing in a fresh set of eyes, a different style, perhaps. And there’s this linkage to tradition and linkage to our past, but linkage to our future, as you bring in a new guy with a new family. … It’s always an exciting time.”

Murdock, who served three years in Topsham, will now serve at Fort Bragg, in his home state of North Carolina.

“I was blessed to get the opportunity for the third year,” he said following the ceremony, adding that he and his family love Maine and appreciate the quality of local education, and that the people are what he will miss the most.

“I’m from the South, and I can tell you that the people in the South have a different vision of the people in the North,” Murdock continued. “I think the people here are just fantastic. I’ve never had a cross word or a bad incident with anybody in three years, which is remarkable in any job.”

Allard pointed out that the battalion is not technically a part of Brunswick Naval Air Station, but is rather a tenant.

“For us it does in many respects work out for the best,” he said, explaining that Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is nearer the population centers of the battalion’s member states. “It will be good for us in the long run to get there and get established.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

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Lt. Col. Patrick Macklin, left, prepares to assume command of the New England Army Recruiting Battalion from Lt. Col. Wade Murdock, right, during a ceremony held at Mt. Ararat Middle School in Topsham on July 17. Command Sgt. Major Bryan Hamilton holds the unit colors. (Lear photo)

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.