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Former Oak Bluffs chief, Joe Carter, takes command of state National GuardIn an historic ceremony, Gov. Deval Patrick swore in Major General Joseph Carter as the first black commander of the Massachusetts National Guard during a standing-room-only ceremony in the State House on Friday.
Mr. Carter, a 33-year veteran and Oak Bluffs resident, is the first African-American to assume command of the Massachusetts National Guard in its 371-year history.
"I'm humbled to be the one at this time and this place to achieve this honor," Mr. Carter said in prepared remarks. "I pledge to serve with integrity, honor, and professionalism as I support the Adjutant General in achieving his vision for the Massachusetts Army National Guard."
Governor Deval Patrick (right) swears in Major General Joseph Carter of Oak Bluffs. Photo by Sgt. James Lally
Mr. Carter, 51, was joined by his family and military officials, police officers and state officials after a 13-gun salute by three howitzer cannons on Boston Common. The chamber audience erupted in a standing ovation after Governor Patrick administered the oath.
"I pledge today to serve with pride, honor and dignity," said Mr. Carter. "I cannot assume this rank without pausing to recognize the countless African-Americans that made it possible for me to rise through the ranks."
As the new adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, Mr. Carter is in command of 8,000 soldiers, according to National Guard officials. He is responsible for guard troops that are deployed to natural disasters and the 1,300 Massachusetts guard soldiers serving in battle zones across the globe, including Iraq.
Marking the historic ceremony was the presence of representatives from the 54th Volunteer Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the Buffalo Soldiers, the first two black military units in the United States, formed more than 150 years ago.
"General Carter represents more than just those of us in the room - he represents courage and sacrifice," said Kevin Burke, secretary of public safety and security.
Governor Patrick awarded Mr. Carter with a Legion of Merit Medal for exceptional service.
Mr. Carter joined the Massachusetts National Guard in 1974. Throughout his career, Mr. Carter has held several posts including assistant adjutant general of Massachusetts and division chief of intelligence and security.
Mr. Carter's wife of 25 years, Rae, a teacher at the Oak Bluffs School, and his 17-year-old daughter watched the ceremony from a balcony overlooking the House floor. Seated next to them were Mr. Carter's parents, Clarence and Betty. Mr. Carter's mother, who was a teacher in Boston for 30 years, said she was elated about her son's appointment.
"I never thought I'd live to see this day," she said.
Catherine Williams is a reporter for the State House News Service.