(HOHENFELS, Germany) - The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division cased their colors during a ceremony at Hohenfels Training Area, Germany September 15, signifying the end of their time as the regionally allocated force for U.S. European Command.

The Fort Stewart, Georgia based brigade has served as the European rotational armored brigade since March 2015, which included two 3-month rotations and one 6-month rotation, with the brigade conducting multinational exercises across 12 countries in Europe.

"I am extremely proud of our Soldiers and all they have accomplished over the past two years," said Col. Phil Brooks, the commander for 1st Brigade. "They were tested with several challenging and complex training scenarios and met every challenge with enthusiasm and a desire to learn and improve their formations."

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the commanding general for U.S. Army Europe, was the officiating officer for the color casing.

"The reason I was so anxious to be a part of this ceremony is to say thank you for what you have done to deter potential adversaries and help all of us get better," stated Hodges. "You achieved strategic effect that far exceeded whatever I could have hoped for."

The brigade supported Operation Atlantic Resolve throughout their rotations, a U.S.-led effort in Eastern Europe that demonstrates U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and enduring peace and stability in the region.

"Nothing demonstrates commitment like having U.S. Soldiers and heavy armored equipment on the ground training side-by-side with our allies," said Brooks. "This reassures them of our continued commitment to their security and territorial integrity while demonstrating to any potential aggressors that our commitment to our allies is absolutely resolute."

Hodges said 1st Brigade was key in demonstrating to potential adversaries the capabilities the U.S. Army is able to bring in defense of our allies and partners.

"This is what deterrence looks like," said Hodges. "You have been at the center of deterrence because you have the ability to compel somebody to do something. It's unlikely, and we want to keep it unlikely, and the way we keep it unlikely is in speed of recognition, speed of a decision, and then something this brigade combat team excels at, speed of assembly."

Speed of assembly is one-way 1st Brigade has increased readiness during their time in Europe.

"The training opportunities provided in Europe are simply outstanding," said Brooks. "We have been able to generate readiness by shooting a series of gunneries at the individual crew-level up to the company level, integrating all the enablers an Armored Brigade Combat Team is able to bring to the fight."

Hodges said he saw a clear progression of the brigade throughout their rotations.

"There's no doubt in my mind that you are so much better than even when you showed up," declared Hodges. "If somebody asks me, did we build readiness or consume readiness, I'd say you all are the most ready brigade combat team on the planet, and I would dare anyone to challenge it."

A unique aspect of training in Europe that also increases readiness is the opportunity to train alongside our NATO allies and partners.

"Almost every one of our exercises included at least one of our allies or partners training alongside our Soldiers," said Brooks. "Living and training together builds interoperability and ensures we are able to seamlessly fight alongside one another as part of a combined force, while at the same time building personal and professional relationships, so the first time we meet one another is not on the battlefield."

Brooks said the training 1st Brigade was able to accomplish in Europe would not have been possible without the support of each of the host nations, the respective U.S. Embassies and U.S. Army Europe.

"Everything from food and barracks space for Soldiers to diplomatic clearances in moving armored equipment across international borders, we would not have been successful in our mission without the support of all the organizations in Europe," said Brooks. "The host nation governments and militaries and all of the organizations that make up U.S. Army Europe went above and beyond to support our Soldiers and provide training opportunities we would not be able to receive anywhere else."

Just as important in supporting the Soldiers in Europe were those supporting the families back home in Georgia.

"I would especially like to thank the 3rd Infantry Division and the entire Coastal Georgia community for the continued support they have shown our families," added Brooks. "The support our families have received makes sure we are able to focus on mission at hand without having to worry about what is going on back home."