Two Minnesota natives conducted a change of command and retirement ceremony in the rotunda at the Minnesota state Capitol, May 31, to transfer the leadership of Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG) Northern Plains.

Cmdr. Bradley Garms, a native of Round Lake and who is set to retire after 20 years of service, was relieved by Cmdr. James Darkenwald, a native of Elk River.

Darkenwald assumed command following his tour as the executive officer of NTAG Northern Plains and looks forward to the new challenge.

“There are a lot of new experiences that I know I will face as the commanding officer,” Darkenwald said. “Our mission is to find the best and brightest to join our nation’s Navy team, and I couldn’t be more proud to lead this team as they answer that call.”

Darkenwald was a Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) Midshipman at the University of Minnesota before he received his commission as a surface warfare officer in 2000.

At sea, he served as the damage control assistant aboard the guided missile frigate USS Nicholas (FFG 47) and information systems security manager aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73).

Ashore, he served as the deputy director of manpower and personnel (N1) and military manpower analyst at Naval Service Training Command (NSTC); the director of officer programs at Navy Recruiting District Chicago; the lead Navy enlisted accessions planner at the Enlisted Force Shaping Plans office for the Chief of Naval Operations, where he was recognized for his innovative force management policy input and work on the Navy’s strategic demand; and as the lead Naval strength planner for U.S. European Command.

Darkenwald looks to take from that experience and guide his team as he moves into their next stage.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but a welcomed one,” Darkenwald said. “I’m fortunate to be part of this team and I look forward to all we will accomplish together.”

NTAG Northern Plains is responsible for enlisted and officer recruiting, covering 393,000 square miles inside the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, nearly half of Wisconsin and parts of Illinois.

Garms, a career F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot, was particularly excited about the prospect of relinquishing command to a fellow Minnesotan.

“Cmdr. Darkenwald has an impeccable service record and his skills and experience leave no doubt in my mind that he will drive this command forward into the future,” Garms said. “I’m excited and I think it’s very special to be able to turnover to another Minnesotan.”

Garms, who served primarily on the West Coast, flew combat missions in 2005 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and in 2011 he again flew combat missions in support of operations New Dawn and Enduring Freedom along with humanitarian and disaster relief missions in support of operation TOMODACHI aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Garms will now be transitioning into his next phase as he looks into retirement.

“I’ve done amazing things and had a great career,” Garms said. “I look back over 20 years and think about all that I’ve been able to see and all that the Navy has given me and I still can’t believe it. I am very excited, though, to see what my next career brings.”

After retirement, Garms plans on taking his Navy trained piloting skills to the civilian sector where he hopes to land a job as a commercial pilot.

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