With a military career spanning 33 years, Lt. Col. Mike Orlando has been promoted to commander of the 198th Expeditionary Signal Battalion in the Delaware Army National Guard.
Lt. Col. Wiley Blevins, who stepped down as commander, serves as director of military support for the Delaware Army National Guard.
The change-of-command ceremony took place at the National Guard's Smyrna Readiness Center.
Originally from Smyrna, Orlando now lives with his family in Milford.
He graduated from Smyrna High School in 1983 and said he has lots of good memories from his high school days including great friends and inspiring teachers.
He enlisted in the Army shortly after graduation.
“I grew up in a community that instilled a sense of service in me," said Orlando. "Many retired military personnel lived in the Smyrna area and growing up I was always interested in their experiences. I went in the Army for the experience of serving my country and also for the GI Bill benefits for college. I chose to serve in the National Guard as part of my desire to continue to serve my state and community.”
Orlando received a bachelor of arts in political science from Delaware State University, a master’s degree in educational leadership from Immaculata University and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the Army War College.
He now lives in Milford with his wife, Lt. Col. Liza Orlando, who is a member of the Delaware Air National Guard with the 142nd Aero Medical Squadron. They have two children, Jackie, 29, and AJ, 25.
“Having a spouse in the Air National Guard certainly helps in terms of support,” said Orlando. “She understands the importance of sacrifice and time spent away from home for training or deployments overseas. Conversely, as a spouse of a military member I understand the sacrifices required from family members.”
In Milford, Orlando is a member of the Milford Rotary Club and the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Committee.
He said highlights of his career in the National Guard include spending a month in Louisiana assisting the citizens of New Orleans recovering from Hurricane Katrina and his 10-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
“My most recent highlight was my graduation from the United States Army War College,” he said. “This is the highest level of military education for an officer in the Army. This was a great opportunity and allowed me to spend time with the ‘who’s who’ of leaders in academia and business.”
He said he is excited to be selected as the commander of the 198th Signal Battalion.
"The battalion’s lineage stretches back to the Battle of Long Island and has served in many wars since," he said.
An expeditionary signal battalion provides communication support for both homeland and overseas missions, including voice and data networks.
“Without effective communications, commanders cannot command and control their units,” said Orlando. “I command three companies in Delaware and one company in South Carolina that I am responsible for. My primary responsibility is to ensure that all personnel are prepared to support a wide range of missions when called upon by the governor or president. I was an enlisted soldier for almost seven years and bring an enlisted perspective to solving problems."
Prepared to be ‘an outstanding commander’
His former brigade commander, Col. Karen Berry, said Orlando was selected as commander because of his experience, skills and leadership qualities.
“He is one of the organization’s senior signal lieutenant colonels and has the military schooling and experience making him the top candidate for the job," said Berry. "He is a 2014 graduate of the Resident U.S. Army War College, the Army's senior military education course, and served as the deputy of the 261st Tactical Theater Signal Brigade. Both of these things have prepared Mike to be an outstanding commander of our battalion.”
Berry said one the challenges as commander will be to “keep the operational tempo up so the soldiers of the battalion feel challenged and stay ready for the missions they have for the next few years.”
“One major undertaking is the battalion’s role as the communications provider for a Homeland Defense mission they are training for to take over in May of 2017,” Berry said. “The soldiers of our signal battalion have the extra challenge of staying on the cutting edge of communications by staying current in their skills to provide all forms of communications for military organizations and state and local organizations if needed. This requires staying current on updates and additions to the equipment ... as well as the ever-changing challenges of protecting the networks we put in place from being compromised by outside threats.”
Another challenge is working with soldiers to continue their service with the National Guard, Berry said.
“Today's young soldiers match their peers in the civilian world and move around to different jobs more frequently than my generation,” she said. “This presents a challenge in keeping soldiers in our units. If they are staying in the military after their initial enlistment, we often find many moving to different areas for their own job opportunities or for their families.”
Biography of Lt. Col. Orlando's career
Lt. Col. Mike Orlando joined the Army on July 21, 1983 and served as a field wireman with the 6th Battalion 29th Field Artillery, 8th Infantry Division in Idar-Oberstein, West Germany.
He joined the 261st Signal Command in July 1985 and served as a radio teletype operator until June 1989. He then entered the Delaware Army Reserve National Guard Officers Candidate School. He was commissioned as a signal officer in July 1990 and received the Leadership Excellence Award.
From July 1990 to January 1992, Orlando was assigned as a radio officer and platoon leader with Company A/198th Signal Battalion and Company B/242nd Signal Battalion. He served as the aide-de-camp to the deputy commanding general of the 261st Signal Command from February 1992 to May 1994. He then served as a platoon leader and radio officer in the 280th Signal Battalion from May 1994 to July 1996. He returned to the 198th Signal Battalion and served in various positions including tele digital communication officer, HHD commander and battalion S-4 from July 1996 through March 2003. He then served as the S-1 of the 261st Signal Brigade until June 2006.
Orlando returned to the 198th Signal Battalion and served as the executive officer with a follow on assignment as the S-3 of the 198th from June 2006 through March 2008. He was then assigned as the human relations equal opportunity officer at the Joint Force Headquarters from April 2008 through June 2010.
He deployed with the 184th Expeditionary Sustainment Command in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, serving as the deputy J-6 while the unit was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan from September 2010 through August 2011.
After his deployment, he was assigned as the mobilization officer for the 261st Signal Brigade from September 2011 through February 2013. He then returned to the Joint Force Headquarters and served as the environmental officer from February to June 2013.
Orlando was selected to attend the U.S. Army War College and graduated in June 2014. He returned to the 261st Signal Brigade and served as the deputy brigade commander from July 2014 to January 2016 and then was assigned as the deputy G- 6 for the Joint Force Headquarters.
He has been a member of the Delaware Army Reserve National Guard full-time staff since April 2005 and has served as a plans and operations specialist in the Joint Operations Center, deputy MILPO, human resources officer and is currently assigned as the director of information management.