JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska –
Brig. Gen. Charles Lee Knowles relinquished command of the Alaska Army National Guard to Col. James Palembas during a change of command ceremony April 9. Maj. Gen. Torrence Saxe, adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, presided over the ceremony.
“This has been an incredible run you’ve had,” Saxe said to Knowles. “You’ve been an awesome commander. It’s been a challenging timeline on many levels but you will be missed.”
Palembas, the new assistant adjutant general-Army, enlisted in the Alaska Army National Guard in 1990 and graduated officer candidate school in 1994, receiving his commission as second lieutenant in the ordnance corps. He served in many roles including detachment, company and battalion commander positions within several units. He also served as the deputy chief of staff for logistics.
Coming from his most recent assignment as chief of staff for the Alaska Army National Guard, he was chosen to lead and take on the increased responsibility of being the Alaska Army Guard’s top leader.
In his capacity as ATAG and commander, Palembas is responsible for the development and implementation of strategy, policy, plans, and initiatives for the Alaska Army National Guard. He will ensure over 1,630 Army Guardsmen in the Joint Forces Headquarters Army staff and the two brigades, 297th Regional Support Group and 38th Troop Command, are organized, trained, and equipped to support state and federal missions.
“Soldiers, I look forward to serving you as the commander,” said Palembas. “We will continue to build a ready force; ready for Soldiers and ready for families.”
“Brig. Gen. Knowles and I think much alike,” he continued. “I will carry that torch on for many initiatives that he started. Your hard work, your sacrifices are not lost on me.”
Knowles has served much of his time in the Alaska Army National Guard alongside Palembas. A born and raised Alaskan, Knowles joined in 1987 and received his commission as an infantry officer in 1995. He served many years in the 297th Infantry Battalion, and went on to serve as the chief of staff for the AKARNG, commander of the Alaska Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion and commander of the 297th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade.
Knowles retired April 10 after 35 years of military service within the organization.
During his time as the commander of the AKARNG, Knowles responded to federal and domestic missions such as a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, the busiest fire season in Alaska over the last 20 years, a global pandemic and frequent deployments of units overseas.
“I leave command knowing our people and our organization are in good hands,” said Knowles. “Thank you all for putting our people first and working to meet their needs.”