September 22, 2002 11:00 pm
CHANGE OF COMMAND: A color guard stands at attention during Saturday's ceremony at the La Grande's National Guard Armory. (The Observer/DICK MASON).
CHANGE OF COMMAND: A color guard stands at attention during Saturday's ceremony at the La Grande's National Guard Armory. (The Observer/DICK MASON).

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

La Grande's new National Guard Armory is just three years old yet the building already has a historic feel to it.

Its hallways are filled with pictures, plaques and mementos that portray the long history of the Oregon National Guard and its La Grande-based 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry.

Another chapter was added Saturday to the long legacy of this National Guard battalion.

Maj. Dan McCabe of La Grande was installed as the commander of the 3-116th Calvary in a morning ceremony.

McCabe succeeds Lt. Col. Bryan Keibler of Sandpoint, Idaho. Keibler served as commander for three years.

McCabe has been with the 3-116th Cavalry for 10 years and was second in command as an executive officer the past three years. He said it will be a privilege to serve as commander.

"It is just a wonderful opportunity; this is a great unit,'' McCabe said.

The 3-116th is comprised of National Guard companies in Baker City, Pendleton, Ontario, The Dalles and Hermiston. La Grande is the site of its headquarters.

Col. Mike Caldwell, deputy director of state affairs for the Oregon National Guard, said McCabe will be an outstanding commander.

"He is a caring individual and he knows how to work with people,'' Caldwell said.

McCabe's many responsibilities will include helping the National Guard get new armories built in Baker City, The Dalles and Ontario.

McCabe is assuming command of a battalion that has taken many steps forward under Keibler's leadership.

"Its state of readiness is excellent and has improved steadily,'' Caldwell said.

Caldwell added that the battalion has had a consistently high retention rate and has attracted many new recruits. Caldwell said that the 3-116th has one of the best recruiting rates in the state per capita.

Caldwell said Keibler was not afraid to speak up if he thought that too much was being asked of the men and women in his battalion.

"He (Keibler) certainly came to the plate for them. That is a sign of a good commander, one who takes care of his people,'' Caldwell said.

One of the most stressful times was a 1-year period in 2000-2001 when the battalion was preparing to go to Bosnia on a peacekeeping mission.

"It was a very demanding time,'' Keibel said.

In the end the 3-116th did not have to go to Bosnia because the U.S. military scaled back its operation, McCabe said.

McCabe, who enlisted in the Army in 1984, is a graduate of Oregon State University. He and his wife Rosemarie live in La Grande and have one daughter.

Rosemarie McCabe is also in the National Guard, serving as the commander for the 206th Quartermaster Battalion based in Salem.

Keibel, who works for the Bonneville Power Administration, was with the 3-116th for 12 years. He will continue to live in Sandpoint after his new National Guard assignment begins.

He described Saturday's changing of command ceremony as an emotional experience.

"Knowing that it is your last day, … you go through so much with these guys,'' he said.