By Capt. Scott KuhnNovember 28, 2017
FORT HOOD, Texas -- The Soldiers of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team "Greywolf," 1st Cavalry Division, returned from a nine-month deployment to Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield recently.
That one sentence encapsulates the who, what, when, where and why but doesn't come close to telling the story of the deployment -- the story of how the brigade sustained readiness and conducted 12 theater security cooperation exercises with six different countries in the Central Command area of operations all the while conducting multiple missions sets in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve in its fight against ISIS.
Col. John Woodward, commander of the Greywolf Brigade, said this deployment was unlike any that he had been on in his more than 20-year career.
"This mission is pretty diverse where we have everything from the range of full combat operations to theater security cooperation missions where we are conducting training with our partners in the region," he said. "As well as remaining ready and trained in case, not just the CENTCOM commander needs to commit us, but with the instability in the world, if we need to go somewhere else in the world, we are ready on a moment's notice."
The brigade spent its time at the National Training Center last fall, training for decisive action missions, which meant that they were ready for large-scale combat operations. This training prepared them to assume the role as the maneuver brigade for Task Force Spartan during Operation Spartan Shield.
Operation Spartan Shield is a combined forces contingency operation within Central Command's area of responsibility. One of the most dynamic regions of the world, this AO has tremendous impact on U.S. vital interests - specifically the free flow of resources through key shipping lanes, the defense of our homeland against the pervasive and persistent threat of terrorism and extremism, and the prevention of the proliferation of WMD. Operation Spartan Shield plays a role both in deterring regional aggression and reacting to possible threats within the Middle East.
Greywolf, one of five brigades that fell under Task Force Spartan, provided fire support and maneuver capability to the region while training alongside numerous partner nations to improve interoperability and partner cohesion.
The brigade participated in 12 different theater security cooperation exercises in six nations. The exercises ranged from simulated command post exercises to force-on-force and combined arms live-fires. The brigade not only partnered with land forces from Kuwait, but also Jordan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan.
Lt. Col. Brian McCarthy, commander of 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd ABCT, said the TSC exercises send a strong message to other nations in the region that we are "both a viable ally and a visible deterrent."
"When we fight we will never fight by ourselves," Woodward said. "We will fight as part of a coalition and in order to test those before we fight, when we train with them we test our interoperability between the two armies. How do we communicate with each other? How do we control direct and indirect fires? And even more importantly, it sends a message to that other country, that other army that we assure them we will be there for them to help protect their sovereignty. And it's also a message to our adversaries as a deterrence that they see our strong relationship."
In addition to conducting the first-ever Desert Observer exercise training with their Kuwaiti counterparts in the defense of Kuwait, units from 3rd ABCT were the first U.S. forces to participate in Operation Bright Star in Egypt since 2009.
The exercises helped develop capabilities and partnerships, as well as gave young Soldiers the opportunity to experience other cultures, said McCarthy.
"The exercises really helped them grow as Soldiers and really just grow as citizens of the world," he said.
Not only was the Brigade responsible for conducting partnership exercises, but it also maintained ready-to-deploy elements that could be sent anywhere within the AO on a moment's notice.
The Operation Spartan Shield mission alone is enough to keep most brigades busy over a nine-month deployment, but the ongoing fight in Iraq and Syria against ISIS played a significant role in brigade operations and tested Greywolf's ability to respond and execute while maintaining its flexibility.
Prior to deploying, Greywolf received an order directing some elements of the brigade to be sent to support the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve and their Iraqi Security Force partners in the fight against ISIS. The units that were sent played a decisive role in the support of the defeat of ISIS in Mosul and the eventual destruction of ISIS in Iraq.
One of the units that rotated Soldiers into Iraq was the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment. The batteries provided fire support as well as force protection for the coalition.
They were there for the attack to retake Mosul from ISIS and witnessed the liberation and subsequent celebrations.
"It was very rewarding, because as much as we are proud of what we accomplished and as much as it meant to us, we know it meant so much more to them and their country and their people," said 1st Lt. Kristy Cordes, platoon leader in Alpha Battery.
Every battalion within the brigade played a role in the support to the coalition -- from combat, to logistics, to advise and assist, and route clearance.
"Our success, to me, has come in two different ways," Woodward said. "One; we did a very stressful, realistic train-up to get here and when we got here performed flawlessly in support of OIR as well as made our partner nations stronger because of the training we provided them. But the second part that makes us so successful is that we are going to redeploy back to Fort Hood at a higher level of readiness, training-wise, and fleet readiness than we deployed with."
Woodward said the multiple mission sets and exercises could easily have served to disrupt the brigade's ability to maintain their overall readiness, but that wasn't the case for Greywolf. In the midst of all of this, they were able to complete two sustainment gunneries, company-level situational training exercises, a brigade-level command post exercise and numerous other training events in order to sustain their readiness throughout the deployment.
On top of their normal training schedule, Soldiers also had the opportunity to rotate through various schools including air assault and basic leader course at Camp Buehring and Advanced and Senior Leader courses back in the U.S.
Greywolf is redeploying, and following some well-deserved time off, it will be right back at it. Soldiers will reset their vehicles and reset themselves and be ready for any mission that the Army calls them to next, said Woodward.
"They should be very proud of what they've done," he said. "This is a lot of hard work. They didn't just come [to Kuwait] and sit in the desert and shoot a couple of gunneries. They continued to get better. Over half of the formation has gained combat experience during this rotation. A lot of Soldiers have trained with armies all over the Middle East. We are not just professionally better, but personally better."