Col. Pete Jones, right, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team commander, passes the battalion colors Thursday to Lt. Col. Nelson Kraft, the incoming commander for 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment.

FORT BENNING, Ga. - The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team's 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, hailed a new leader Thursday.

Lt. Col. Nelson Kraft took over the position during a change of command ceremony at Kelley Hill's Sledgehammer Field. He replaces Lt. Col. Ken Harvey.

Kraft arrives at Fort Benning after serving last year as aide-de-camp to the commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan.

"1-15 has set a high standard, but I know that with your operational experiences, you'll have little trouble achieving success and greatness," said Col. Pete Jones, the 3rd HBCT commander. "This is a highly motivated battalion, and they're ready to carry on under your leadership."

Nicknamed the "Dragons," with a service patch that reads "Can Do," the battalion was home to the famed Baker Company during World War II. It later became known as "Audie Murphy's Company."

The battalion recently returned home following the 3rd HBCT's historic fourth Iraq deployment.

"Words cannot describe how honored I am to be joining your team," said Kraft, who is accompanied by his wife, Kathy, and their two children, Madelynn and Nate. "I pledge to give you nothing but my very best each and every day ... as we move forward in adding the next chapter to an already incredible history."

Kraft graduated from Bowling Green State University and was commissioned in 1994. He's deployed three times to Afghanistan and once to Iraq, where he spent 2007 to 2009 as a battalion operations and executive officer.

He was assigned to Fort Benning earlier in his career, working as a small group instructor with the Infantry Captains Career Course and then chief of urban operations at the Infantry School.

Harvey, meanwhile, had been the battalion's commander since 2008.

"Ken Harvey leveraged the spirit of excellence, his seasoned leadership and a love for training Soldiers to ensure the Dragon's success in Iraq - success built on the blood and tears of previous deployments of many in the ranks you see before you," Jones told the audience.

In October 2009, the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, left for a yearlong deployment to Najaf and Diwaniyah provinces, where it trained, advised and assisted six Iraqi army battalions, two provincial police forces along a border enforcement region and two provincial reconstruction teams while conducting around-the-clock force-protection missions.

The battalion didn't lose a single Soldier during the tour.

"Realizing it's not only about security, Ken Harvey had to learn about being a diplomat," Jones said. "He had the patience and wit to put up with not only Iraqi politicians and religious leaders, but sometimes our own State Department colleagues. ... If I had to pick one factor that sets (him) and 1-15 apart, it would be their competitive edge, a desire to foster the best in each and every Soldier and leader."

Harvey was commissioned as an Armor officer in 1991 after graduating from Appalachian State University. He deployed to Iraq three times with the 3rd HBCT and supported Task Force Hawk earlier in Albania and Kosovo.

He called the past 30 months the "most professionally rewarding time of my life."

"The officers and NCOs made this job fun," he said. "You led from the front, enforced the standards and cared for your men - I could not have asked for more."

The unit's Soldiers and leaders make up the "best combined-arms battalion in the Army," Harvey said.

"These proven professionals are the reason this unit has accomplished every task it's been given," he said. "Any success I've achieved has been solely due to their dedication, competence and warrior spirit."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16