Cuba resident assumes command of Army National Guard Special Forces Group in Alabama

When command of the 20th Special Forces Group (Airborne) changed hands on Saturday, Sept. 15, both the outgoing and incoming commanders attributed their successful careers to their enlisted troops.

Outgoing commander, Col. Derek Lipson, addressed the crowd, “20th Special Forces Group units are housed in eight states and 17 different facilities. They have responded and are responding now to local and regional hurricanes, winter storms and flooding, conducting search and rescue, assisting local authorities with crises, action-planning and providing communication teams to state and local officials.”

“I am proud of my soldiers’ selfless service and willingness to deploy at home and overseas. Their success speaks to the quality of our non-commissioned officers, the backbone of the Army,” Col. Lipson said.

Incoming commander Col. Shawn Satterfield grew up on a farm north of St. James and graduated from St. James High School. He added his personal experience to Col. Lipson’s sentiment. “You don’t get to this level by yourself. It takes a lot of help along the way,” he said. Satterfield explained that he was mentored by several gifted NCOs along the way. “To my officers: Never pass up a chance to be mentored by a squared-away NCO.” 

“A chaplain once told me,” he continued, “all the darkness in the world can’t extinguish the light of a single candle. Some would say the divisiveness and polarization of our culture today is unprecedented. People consider others with different political beliefs their adversaries. It seems that there is a complete disregard for values across our social landscape.” 

“I am proud to be a member of the National Guard and to be assigned to the 20th Group because you are a beacon of light in your local communities. You understand what Army values mean. You understand what loyalty means to your country, to the Constitution, to your unit and to each other,” said Satterfield. “The values that our soldiers live by are important, especially in today’s civil society, where we just don’t see that same level of respect. Soldiers are a great example of the values that we should all live by.”

The new 20th Special Forces Group commander, Col. Shawn Satterfield, enlisted into the Missouri National Guard in 1986 at the age of 17. He obtained his commission through ROTC in December 1990 and graduated from the Army Special Forces Qualification Course in 1993. Satterfield has multiple deployments to the Middle East, as well as Central and South America. Satterfield is the 17th commander of the 20th SFG. He owns a farm west of Cuba and has been a Cuba resident since 1996.

The 20th is one of only two Army National Guard Special Forces Groups and plays a key role in a myriad of missions around the world. The group, headquartered at Sumpter Smith Air National Guard Base in Birmingham, maintains near constant deployment status, sending soldiers to more than 25 countries annually with a “long-term commitment to excellence and a continuing partnership with active Army Special Forces Groups.”