By Sgt. Doug Roles, 56th SBCT, 28th Inf. DivMarch 23, 2009
CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division, marked another milestone today in its yearlong mobilization, train-up and deployment to Iraq - receipt of the order for Soldiers to place the brigade's combat patch on their uniforms.
The Pennsylvania National Guard brigade arrived here in late January and will be in Iraq through the summer. The Soldiers will wear a black "Keystone" patch on their right sleeve for the rest of their deployment. The patch mirrors the division's Keystone worn by all 28th Inf. Div. Soldiers. Once awarded, Soldiers are authorized to wear the combat patches they earn for the rest of their careers.
"You should be very proud of what you're doing here. Congratulations on earning this combat patch," Brig. Gen. Jerry G. Beck Jr., 28th Inf. Div. commander, told Soldiers during a ceremony in which he placed patches on several soldiers.
Beck and Col. Marc Ferraro, 56th SBCT commander, said the brigade has met many landmarks since the 2004 start of its transition to a Stryker Brigade and its subsequent mobilization. The 56th SBCT, currently headquartered at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad, is the only Stryker brigade in either the National Guard or reserve components. Ferraro told Soldiers gathered for the ceremony that the brigade's mission is to support the Iraqi people while providing security. He reminded his Soldiers to remain vigilant and maintain an offensive posture.
"We've shed blood and lost one of our own," Ferraro said, referring to Staff Sgt. Mark Baum, killed in February, 2009 during a combat patrol. "Wear this patch with pride and remember why we wear it."
"Today you all go through a rite of passage," Ferraro added. "As the only Stryker Brigade Combat Team in the reserve component, today you make your mark."
The ceremony marked the second time since 9/11 that a 28th Infantry Division unit has seen Soldiers place a second Keystone on their uniform. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team was deployed to Iraq for a year in 2005, following a six-month training period in Mississippi.
There are six Stryker brigades in the active Army. 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 Regiment, the brigade traces its lineage back to the "Associators" force raised by Ben Franklin to defend Philadelphia from French privateers.