By Staff Sgt. Aaron R. Knowles, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat TeamDecember 15, 2015
FORT BENNING, Ga., (Dec. 16, 2015) -- As with all stories, there are two things that are definite: a beginning and an end.
Nineteen years ago, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, or BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, uncased its colors here, and in April, it will case its colors again to give another unit the opportunity to begin its own story.
However, the 3rd BCT began hosting inactivation ceremonies on Sledgehammer Field for each of its six battalions beginning Dec. 11.
The inactivation ceremonies are one of the final steps of preparation for the brigade to begin closing its doors, as it transitions into Task Force 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.
Col. Michael Simmering, commander of the 3rd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, said the transformations were announced in July 2015, as part of an Army-wide reduction.
"The transformation officially began on Sept. 22 when we received inactivation orders from U.S. Army Forces Command," Simmering said.
Since receiving those orders, the brigade has been hard at work accomplishing the mission of deactivation, but according to Simmering, the biggest concern has been taking care of the Soldiers.
"Our approach has been to place the majority of our effort ensuring that our people within the brigade are taken care of," he said. "So far, we've coordinated with Human Resources Command [HRC] to determine future assignments for individuals, whether staying on Kelley Hill or moving on to other assignments."
The 3rd Brigade and HRC had to figure out how and where to place nearly 2,500 Soldiers since the new task force would only consist of 1,050 personnel.
To accomplish this, not only has Simmering visited HRC personally, with the intent of taking care of Soldiers, but HRC has visited Kelley Hill with the same intent.
Another mission that took place was the creation of a transition assistance center, which opened on Kelley Hill, Oct. 20. Simmering worked with his unit ministry team to coordinate a "one-stop shop," where all Soldiers and their Families affected by the transition, could go to get any answers or assistance in the process of departing Kelley Hill.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Ford, the operations sergeant major for 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, is one Soldier preparing to depart Kelley Hill, following the ceremonies.
"I have a lot great memories here," Ford said. "This is all very bittersweet because this is like my Family. It's hard but it's something that we have to do."
Ford, who was stationed with the 3rd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, in 2002 for several years, returned last year to the 3rd BCT. He has spent nearly a quarter of his career with the infantry division.
"No matter where I've gone, I have always talked about 3rd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, and how it is special," Ford said. "It's unmatched."
When asked about what he would miss the most about his time at the 3rd BCT, Ford said: "The camaraderie is unmatched. It is like no other. I can't explain it, it's just special."
With majority of the outgoing Soldiers on orders or already gone, and plans established for Soldiers still in place, the time has come for the units to case their colors in order to make a place for the new task force.
The historical significance of these ceremonies weighed on the command team, and the considerations of where to hold them was a hard decision, but in the end it was a simple answer for Simmering.
"We hold the ceremony here on Sledgehammer Field because this is our home," Simmering said. "This is where this team has formed, reformed, learned, trained, and lived together for decades. This hill represents a place where lifelong friendships have been born. Where people, all who have made a choice to serve this nation, came together to answer the call, over and over again."
"I don't see this as goodbye," Simmering said. "It merely represents another, albeit significant, chapter in this unit's great story. But until those colors are unfurled again, on another battlefield, flying high, the Soldiers before you will continue to serve the nations call as members of other units, and as members of other teams. They will carry the standard forward with them and a memory of what a great unit truly looks, acts, and feels like."
The 3rd BCT casing ceremonies continued through Dec. 15. The activation ceremony of the new Task Force 1-28 will take place on Sledgehammer Field, Dec. 16.