KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Tennessee State Guard is getting a new commander. Tennessee Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes, announced Friday that Governor Bill Lee had appointed retired U.S. Army Colonel Kevin Stewart as the new commander.

On October 1 during a ceremony at Nashville’s Joint Force Headquarters, Stewart will be promoted to the rank of Brig. Gen. (Tenn.) and assume command of the State Guard.

“Col. Stewart is a committed Soldier, volunteer, and Tennessean,” said Holmes. “He is a talented leader with more than 33 years of experience in the Tennessee National Guard and multiple combat deployments. I look forward to the State Guard’s future accomplishments under Kevin’s leadership.”

Stewart enlisted in Tennessee National Guard as a Field Artilleryman in 1985. In 1988, he was commissioned as a Field Artillery Officer. Over the next 30 years, he made multiple overseas deployments including Desert Storm in 1991, Afghanistan in 2005 and 2009, and Jordan in 2012. He is also a graduate of the U.S. Army War College where he earned a master’s degree in Strategic Studies. He retired from the National Guard in 2018.

Stewart will assume command from Brig. Gen. (Tenn.) Juan R. Santiago, who has served as the commander of the State Guard since December 2020.

“Santiago has done an amazing job as the State Guard commander for nearly two years,” said Holmes. “His troops have been invaluable to the state while they supported COVID-19 testing and vaccinations as well as provided relief to Humphreys County following the flash flood last year. It is a great loss to our state, but his retirement is well deserved after spending more than 32 years in uniform.”

Santiago is a veteran of Desert Storm. He also served as an Information Technology (Cyber) Officer for the Air Force. In addition, he is the Executive Director of the State Guard Association of the United States.

The State Guard consists of more than 500 personnel and is headquartered in Nashville.