CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT -- The New York National Guard's historic 369th Sustainment Brigade, famously known as the "Harlem Hell Fighters," participated in a transfer of authority ceremony here on October 26, 2016 with the outgoing 17th Sustainment Brigade out of Las Vegas, Nevada.

The ceremony featured the casing of the 17th SB's unit colors and the uncasing of the 369th SB's unit colors, signifying the changing of the guard, as the 369th officially assumed mission command.

The uncasing of the brigade's unit colors is significant, because according to Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony V. Mclean, the 369th SB's senior enlisted advisor, "The military is always about representing one's unit and one's colors. It gives identity to the unit, and for us, to me gives [an] identity to New York; showing up and actually saying 'we're here.'
"It's symbolic of tradition. It's symbolic of what we represent as Soldiers, but more so as a country," said Mclean.

According to Brig. Gen. Bruce E. Hackett, deputy commanding general of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command-Operational Command Post, "What sustainment brigades do on a day-to-day basis is vital to protect the U.S. national interests in the Middle East."

The 369th SB will oversee sustainment operations in more than six countries throughout the Middle East. Operations will include providing both supplies and services to units throughout the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

It is a responsibility that Maj. Gen. Paul C. Hurley, commanding general of the 1st TSC, has called the "most difficult sustainment mission" in the Army.

For Col. Stephen M. Bousquet, commander of the 369th SB, however, it is not just about looking forward, but also looking back.

"This is a culmination of efforts for the 369th over many years of preparing through a tremendous train up; through accomplishing a warfighter this past February, to going through several different staff exercises," said Bousquet.

He added the brigade's mission in theater highlights the importance of the 369th SB for New York, taking on one of the largest missions that the state has ever had for a brigade headquarters.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity for the Harlem Hell Fighters to showcase their abilities, the training, and the expertise that we have inherent to the New York Army National Guard," said Bousquet.

The 369th SB was originally organized as the 15th New York Infantry in 1916 in Harlem and was an African-American unit in the segregated Army of the time.

In 1917, as the United States entered World War I, the unit was mustered into federal service and assigned to the 185th Infantry Brigade. In 1918 the 15th Infantry was renamed the 369th Infantry and assigned to France's 161st Division.

The Soldiers served in combat under French command and earned a regimental Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) and many individual awards for heroism while serving under fire for 191 days in 1918. The unit's historic nickname, "The Hell Fighters," was reportedly bestowed on them by their German opponents.