By Sgt. Doug Roles, MND-B PAOFebruary 25, 2009
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, marked the official start of its mission in Iraq during a Transfer of Authority ceremony Feb. 24 at Camp Taji.
The Pennsylvania National Guard brigade assumed responsibility for assisting Iraqi Security Forces in securing an area around Taji, northwest of Baghdad. The TOA marks an end of mission for Soldiers of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry, based in Hawaii.
"The Soldiers of the "Independence Brigade" stand ready to serve side by side with their Iraqi counterparts to support their endeavor to build a safe and prosperous Iraq," said Col. Marc Ferraro, the 56th SBCT commander.
A two-week transition period preceded the turnover of responsibility. Soldiers from the two brigades worked together during that time in a "right seat/left seat" job; shadowing that saw the incoming Soldiers take the lead in day-to-day operations.
Ferraro acknowledged the sacrifices the Soldiers of 2nd Bde., 25th Inf. Div. made. He pledged to build upon their success.
"Eleven "Warrior" Soldiers will return to Hawaii only in spirit today," he said, also noting the nearly 100 additional 2-25th Soldiers who were wounded during the deployment.
Ferraro said Pennsylvania's citizen Soldiers "will pursue the enemy" while working with the Government of Iraq, the local populace and reconstruction teams. He noted that the 56th SBCT's Soldiers have been working diligently since the brigade began its transformation to a Stryker unit in late 2004.
"The challenges that lay ahead we will face head on with tenacity and iron will, just as our founding fathers did," Ferraro said.
A number of Iraqi officials attended the ceremony to say goodbye to the outgoing unit and welcome the new unit. One Iraqi military official said the region saw an increase in security and infrastructure rebuilding while Iraqi forces worked together with the Hawaii-based 2nd Bde., 25th Inf. Div.
"Security and providing services goes hand in hand," the official said. "I know the new brigade will work as hard as the outgoing brigade."
The Independence Brigade is one of seven Stryker brigades in the Army but the only such brigade in the Reserve Component. Stryker brigades center around the eight-wheeled, highly mobile Stryker vehicle.
The 56th SBCT, headquartered in Philadelphia, mobilized about 4,100 Soldiers from armories across Pennsylvania. Through the 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry, the brigade traces its lineage back to the "Associator" force raised by Ben Franklin to defend Philadelphia from French privateers.