The incoming 7th Group commander is Col. John W. Sannes, who has wide experience in the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne).

EGLIN AFB — Col. Patrick Colloton relinquished command of the Army's 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in a Thursday ceremony at Camp Simons, the group's compound near Crestview, amid accolades for his work to honor the group's heritage, take care of its troops' families, and integrate the group into the community.

Colloton, who had a number of prior assignments with 7th Group, led the group and its more than 2,000 personnel for two years, and is heading to U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. The 7th Group's primary area or responsibility is Latin America south of Mexico, but its troops also have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and more recently, to Korea, where its soldiers worked with South Korean special forces personnel. 

The incoming 7th Group commander is Col. John W. Sannes, who has wide experience in the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne). Sannes began his military career in 1992 as an enlisted soldier with the South Dakota National Guard and the Minnesota National Guard before being commissioned as a second lieutenant through the Army ROTC program.

"Pat epitomizes what it means to be a Special Forces leader," Maj. Gen. John Deedrick, commanding general of the Army's 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), said of Colloton during the change of command ceremony in the group's chapel. Reviewing Colloton's leadership of the 7th Group, Deedrick took particular note of the family-oriented programs that Colloton has established.

"You built family programs that are resilient, and you've left something that can be built upon," Deedrick told Colloton and the hundreds of soldiers, community leaders and family members at the command change. Among the people attending, in addition to Colloton's wife, Erin and the couple's two young children, were Colloton's sister, Brig. Gen. Kimberly Colloton of the Army Corps of Engineers, and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Martin Patterson, who received the Medal of Honor for actions in Vietnam.

Deedrick also mentioned Colloton's decision during last year's Hurricane Michael and its aftermath to suspend the 7th Group's regular operations to allow troops to assist in hurricane recovery efforts.

"That was absolutely the right call," Deedrick said, calling the move "part of the legacy of community that Pat and Erin built here."

Deedrick also noted Colloton's work in getting various facilities at Camp Simons named for 7th Group heroes, including the headquarters building which was named last year in honor of Roger Donlon. While serving as a captain in Vietnam, Donlon became the first soldier to earn the Medal of Honor in that war, and the first 7th Group soldier to receive the U.S. military's highest honor. Colloton also worked to establish a memorial for the 7th Group's military working dogs, Deedrick noted Thursday.

Colloton's work at the 7th Group "goes far beyond a two-year command," Deedrick said, calling Colloton's efforts "a legacy of excellence."

In presenting the new commander to the 7th Group, Deedrick said Sannes is more than ready to take command.

"This is no surprise," Deedrick said, noting Sannes is "one of the most deployed officers" in the Army.

Deedrick went on to urge Sannes "to build upon the culture that Pat instilled here, that Erin instilled here."

In brief remarks, Sannes told Colloton he was "humbled and honored to follow you in command."

"I look forward to learning this formation," Sannes told the 7th Group troops, before reciting its Spanish motto, "Lo Que Sea, Cuando Sea, Donde Sea," which translates as "Anything, Anytime, Anywhere."

In his farewell remarks, Colloton focused on the soldiers he has led for the past two years, telling them, "The only thing that changes today is me and John."

"This group has done phenomenal things," Colloton said, urging the troops to remember that "you're walking among heroes."

"The sun doesn't set on this organization," Colloton added. "From Helmand Province in Afghanistan to Honduras down south, to parts of Korea, this organization has people out in harm's way, getting the mission done."

"It's been truly my blessing to be here for the last couple of years as the commander," Colloton said. "It's been my honor to serve here."