By Pfc. Kelly LeCompte, 30th HBCT PAO, MND-BJune 17, 2009
FOB FALCON, Iraq -Authority at Forward Operating Base Falcon, located at the southern edge of Baghdad, transferred from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, to the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, during a ceremony, May 26.
This is the Old Hickory Brigade's second deployment to Iraq. It is the first National Guard brigade to twice deploy with its own area of operations.
"Soldiers and members of Old Hickory, our journeys to this point and place have been long and diverse," said Col. Gregory Lusk, commander of the 30th HBCT. "We are ready for what lays ahead. We are here for a reason; we are the right people, at the right place, and the right time."
The ceremony began with honors to the nations. The Iraqi national anthem was played, then Spc. Brian Taylor, of the 30th HBCT sang "The Star-Spangled Banner".
Following the anthems, Col. Pat White, commander of the 2nd BCT, addressed the crowd, which included Soldiers of Old Hickory, the Iron Brigade, local Iraqi leaders, security forces and citizens.
White spoke of the ceremony's significance and how it reflects the successes of his Soldiers and their partnerships with the Iraqi Army, National Police and local leaders; all of whom played a large part in the brigade's success.
"Over the past years, we have conducted these ceremonies to symbolize the changing of the guard for Coalition forces, as well as our continued commitment to peace and stability," said White. "Since April 2008, Soldiers of the Iron Brigade have accomplished every assigned mission .... I'd like to think we have helped made a difference."
He also spoke of his confidence in the ability of the 30th HBCT troops to continue the mission.
"Over the past three weeks we have endeavored to share our knowledge and experience with Old Hickory," White said. "Secure in knowing that they will do better and more, through partnership with the citizens of southern Baghdad."
White then thanked Maj. Gen. Daniel Bolger, Multi-National Division-Baghdad commander; Brig. Gen. Fred Rudesheim, deputy commanding general for support of MND-B; and Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, senior enlisted advisor for MND-B, for their support.
White and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Eyer encased the Iron Brigade's colors following the speech. Lusk and Command Sgt. Maj. John Swart uncased Old Hickory's colors immediately after, signifying the transfer of authority from the Iron Brigade to Old Hickory.
Encasing is a procedure of rolling the brigade's flag and placing it in a sleeve. Old Hickory will display its uncased colors above the command post throughout the deployment.
Lusk then congratulated the Soldiers of the Iron Brigade for their support while Old Hickory Soldiers began operations.
"I cannot adequately express the gratitude to you and your Soldiers for the tremendous support and effort during this relief in place," Lusk said. "Your brigade combat team has set the conditions for Old Hickory to continue the mission and be successful."
Lusk also spoke directly to Bolger.
"We are ready to assume the mission," Lusk said. "We have prepared long and hard for this moment. We are honored to serve with and be a part of the 'First Team.'"
Addressing the Iraqi guests in attendance, Lusk assured them that the progress made so far will continue.
"The 30th Brigade will commit to working side-by-side, in partnership with you, in securing your families and continuing the progress you have started for your future generations," Lusk said. "It is vital that we commit to each other to do whatever hard work is necessary in ensuring that the sacrifices of so many lives will not have been in vain."
Lusk concluded his speech with a message to the brigade: "Soldiers of Old Hickory, it is now time to go in and execute."