NY Army National Guard Command Sgt. Major Edwin Garris, a police officer in civilian life and veteran of three wars, serves as senior advisor to the brigade commander on enlisted soldier issues
New York Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Edwin L. Garris, a Buffalo resident and a veteran of Operation Desert Storm, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has become the top non-commissioned officer in the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Garris assumed the role from Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony McLean during a Change of Responsibility ceremony at the brigade’s Syracuse headquarters. In this role, Garris acts as the chief advisor to Col. Robert Charlesworth on enlisted soldier issues.
The brigade has units across the state, including the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry which has elements ni Niagara Falls, Buffalo and Jamestown, and the 152nd Brigade Engineer Battalion which has units in Buffalo.
More than 500 27th Brigade Soldiers are currently deployed in Washington D.C. as part of a National Guard security force in the nation’s capital.
“There are a lot of challenges to be a Brigade Command Sergeant Major,” Garris said. “The level of responsibility and the gravity of dedication will be tough.”
Central to the ceremony was the passing of the unit’s flag, or colors, from McLean to Garris. The tradition signifies the new responsibility of the senior NCO in the command to ensure good order and discipline among its troops.
“To all the Soldiers, the Command Sergeant Majors, the First Sergeants – you have to buy into what this uniform is,” Garris said.
“And I will challenge you every step of the way to make sure that the integrity of this uniform will always be first and foremost in everything you do.”
Garris is now part of a command team leading more than 3,000 Soldiers in units across New York and Massachusetts, and serves alongside Charlesworth.
“You are the right leader at the right time to assume responsibility of the 27th Brigade,” Charlesworth told Garris during the ceremony. “You’re uniquely qualified to serve as our Command Sergeant Major, having held numerous leadership positions throughout the fires community and in many other units across the brigade and New York Army National Guard.
Garris is a District Captain with the Buffalo Police Department, and brings 32 years of military service to the senior non-commissioned officer role.
He served in the active Army in Germany, Georgia, and Texas from 1983 to 1994. Garris joined the Army National Guard in 1999 and has held senior roles at the battalion, brigade, and division level, as well as in the FEMA Region II Homeland Response Force.
His deployments include tours in Saudi Arabia in 1990, Iraq in 2004, Afghanistan in 2007, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2013, and Kuwait in 2019.
But despite years of experience and a long list of accomplishments, Garris admitted to Soldiers, friends, and family attending the ceremony that he didn’t always see himself achieving the role of Brigade Command Sergeant Major.
“The reason why was, I was an African American Male, and I didn’t think the organization would have allowed me to get here. But our state has changed that. We have great leadership now, who is willing to make sure that everyone gets a chance. Everyone gets a shot,” Garris said.
Garris’ military education includes the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, Infantryman’s Course, Advanced Noncommissioned Officer Course, Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course, Air Defense Artillery transitional training, Primary Leadership Development Course, Field Artillery Advanced Individual Training course, and Army basic training.
His awards and decorations include the Meritorious Unit Citation, Meritorious Service Medal, two Army Commendation Medals, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Southwest Asia Service Medal with two Bronze Service Stars, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal , the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, four Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbons, , three Army Overseas Service Ribbons, the NATO Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), and the Combat Action Badge.
McLean, an Iraq war veteran and retired New York City police detective, enlisted in the Army in 1982, and joined the National Guard in 1989. He became the 27th IBCT’s Command Sergeant in October 2017.