Nick Ducich, installation commander for Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos, was promoted to Brigadier General on Saturday during a ceremony presided over by Maj. Gen. David Baldwin, chief of the California National Guard.
Baldwin announced that Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, selected Ducich as the bureau’s vice director of operations, a position that oversees homeland defense in partnership with U.S. Northern Command and civilian agencies. The job includes monitoring the Guard’s readiness for catastrophic incidents involving multiple states or regions.
“Unfortunately, we’re not the only one who recognized Nick’s leadership potential,” Baldwin said. “[General Lengyel] is swiping him away from us on very short notice to do a critically important job at the national level. So what’s bad for California and bad for Los Alamitos and bad for the 40th Infantry Division is great news for our country.”
His wife Tia Ducich helped him upgrade his uniform, smiling as she punched the star into his chest. Their daughter removed his old hat before their two sons placed a new hat on their kneeling dad’s head.
Maj. Gen. Laura Yeager, commander of the 40th Infantry Division, presented Ducich with a leather belt and golden buckle that are specially made for generals.
“You guys, this is not your Batman utility belt,” Ducich said to his sons.
Less than eight months ago, Ducich assumed command of the 1,300-acre base, which is home to the only active military airport between Camp Pendleton and Point Mugu. He’s had a busy tenure, hosting dozens of military aircraft from the American, British, and Canadian armed forces for the Great Pacific Airshow last October. The base also added an event where members of the public can meet pilots flying in the airshow.
He also secured funding to repair the airfield’s runway lights and acquire a new base fire engine equipped to extinguish aircraft fires.
Ducich thanked the many non-commissioned officers who empowered him to lead troops over the last 30 years.
“These NCOs are just incredible teammates who push me to be that better officer,” he said. “My biggest fear was letting them down because I knew how much they were bringing in effort every day.”
Before his arrival in Orange County, Ducich was the first commander of Serbian ancestry to lead the U.S. Army’s peacekeeping task force in Kosovo. He also oversaw the multinational group to train Ukrainian soldiers to defend their country against Russia.
Following Ducich’s departure, Brig. Gen. Michael Leeney will carry dual roles as installation commander and deputy commanding general of operations for the 40th Infantry Division. Ducich expects Leeney to continue his practice of regularly meeting with city and council officials.
“The relationships here are so strong that I know the person that comes in to take my place is going to be embraced,” Ducich said.
Leeney inherits a host of planned projects from his predecessor, including working on runway repairs, modernizing an old aircraft hanger, improving aircraft hanger security and adding vehicle maintenance bays.
Construction crews are currently abating asbestos and lead paint in an existing building that will be renovated as office space for the Army Corps of Engineers, Ducich said.
Los Alamitos will also see the construction of a 30,000-square-foot readiness center serve as a hub for the National Guard in case of a natural or man-made disaster. The base expects to break ground before the end of the year on the $25 million building that will host assembly space, classrooms, and offices for multiple federal and state agencies.