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FORT HARRISON - Leadership changes occurring in the Montana National Guard are par for the course and won't affect military operations, officials said recently.

In recent weeks, the Montana Guard promoted Col. Bradley Livingston, the chief of staff, to the rank of brigadier general and named him director of the joint staff.

Other top-level appointments have seen Sgt. Major Bradley Murfitt named command sergeant major of garrison command at Fort Harrison, while Sgt. Major James Irvine was appointed command sergeant major of the 95th Troop Command, to which most state battalions report.

"The units haven't changed and the missions haven't changed," said Maj. Tim Crowe, public relations officer for the Montana Guard. "We're just continuing the mission as people retire and we backfill these spaces. It's a seamless process."

Late last month, the Guard also named Col. Steve Martinka the new J-3, or director of joint operations, filling a position left open when Maj. Gen. John Walsh was named the state's new adjutant general.

The latter half of 2008 has been a busy one for the Guard, complete with retirements, a shift in leadership and a new approach to training.

The state Guard is also gearing up for several impending deployments to the Middle East, which are expected to begin as early as next year.

Murfitt, a native of Billings, has served in the Guard for 29 years. As garrison command sergeant major, he'll oversee management of National Guard facilities, armories and firing ranges across the state.

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"It's the goal of every enlisted soldier," Murfitt said.

"I'm honored to have been appointed."

Livingston joined the Montana Air National Guard in 1972. He was promoted to brigadier general - one of the highest ranks within the National Guard - at a ceremony held recently in Helena.

Livingston was recommended for the rank by former adjutant general Maj. Gen. Randy Mosley, who retired from the service earlier this year and was replaced by Walsh.

"We would not have been able to successfully develop into a joint staff without the leadership Livingston has demonstrated over the past several years," Walsh said.

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