Louisiana National Guard unit in Carville welcomes new commander

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South

NEW ORLEANS – Louisiana National Guard Lt. Col. Dirk Erickson took command of the 61st Troop Command during an official change of command ceremony at the Gillis W. Long Center in Carville, Dec. 2.

Erickson will replace Col. Johnathon W. Ballard, who has served as the commander since August 2012.

Erickson began his military career in 1985 when he enlisted into active service with the U.S. Army and joined the LANG in 1989. He received a direct commission as a second lieutenant in 1998. 

Erickson currently resides in Alexandria with his wife Beth and has two daughters, Cameron and Avery. He holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and Chemistry from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond.   

Ballard began his military career in 1986 as an enlisted Soldier with the 256th Infantry Brigade. He received his commission after completing the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches in 1991.

Ballard holds a Bachelor’s of Arts Degree in General Studies from Northwestern State University and a Masters of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He currently resides in Geismar with his wife, Patricia, and son Jackson.

Organized in 1994, the 61st has been an integral unit in the LANG's force structure. Early in the Global War on Terror, it maintained command over several support battalions, most of which saw deployments overseas.

During the Katrina response in 2005, members of the 61st were airlifted from the flooded Jackson Barracks to oversee security operations at the Superdome.

In 2006, the unit was streamlined, focusing on homeland security and emergency response operations.

The 61st played a key command and control role during the responses to Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, Isaac, and Harvey as well as the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the major floods of 2016.