By Staff Sgt. Jason Kendrick, 56th IBCT PAO, 36th Inf. Div.August 3, 2009
BAGHDAD - More than 240 days have passed since the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team took responsibility of the Base Defense Operations at Victory Base Complex in Baghdad from the 'Bowie' Brigade last December.
During this time, the Soldiers of Task Force Arrowhead have braved the elements-wind-blown sand, searing heat, and the inhaling and exhaling of tiny dust particles suspended in the air in their mission to provide a safe and secure environment for all that live and work on the massive Victory Base Complex on the western edge of Baghdad.
Now the 'Jungleers' of Oregon's 41st IBCT and Task Force Hood, stand ready to relieve the Texas Guardsmen and this is what they did during an Aug. 1 transfer of authority ceremony on Victory Base Complex.
Throughout their deployment, the Arrowhead Soldiers were faced with many challenges that came from their non-standard mission-a mission that would not have been accomplished without the civilian skills and overall professionalism that the Texas Guardsmen have, according to Lt. Col. John Butler, executive officer, 56th IBCT.
Some of the challenges met included the reduction in forces available simultaneous to the expansion of the base defense mission.
"The 56th IBCT conducted a critical mission and we were required to downsize the military force by more than 50 percent and replace those with contractors," explained Butler, who in his civilian job serves as a police lieutenant in League City, Texas.
Col. Lee Henry, commander of the 56th IBCT, thanked many in attendance at the transfer of authority ceremony for their support during the deployment. Henry also took a moment to speak to his Soldiers about their accomplishments, stating that their "professionalism while conducting the non-traditional mission played a critical role in the success of the Coalition forces in Iraq."
Quantifying the success of the Arrowhead Brigade, Henry, an Austin, Texas resident, recalled the Texas Guardsmen's role in the transition of responsibility for the Sons of Iraq (SoI); the operational over-watch provided during the regional elections held on Jan. 31 in Airport Village and the changes and transitions that came with the Security Agreement implemented on Jan.1.
Soldiers of the brigade also excelled in their mission, managing the coordination of effort in securing the Victory Base Complex during visits by numerous dignitaries including several congressional and governor delegations and two sitting Presidents of the United States, according to Henry.
During the transfer of authority ceremony with the 41st IBCT, Sgt. Jeff Anderson and Staff Sgt. Jeremy Amis, both serving in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 56th IBCT, lowered the battle flag of the Arrowhead Brigade for the last time.
"Lowering the colors was when I finally realized that our mission really was over and that we were finally going back to Texas," said Anderson, of Sugar Land, Texas.
The 'colors' of the Arrowhead Brigade and the Soldiers that they represent have stood for excellence each day since the Texas Guardsmen assumed the responsibility for securing the more than 65,000 uniformed service members and civilians that live and work on the sprawling Victory Base Complex, according to Henry.
Part of that excellence was embodied by the Arrowhead Brigade's Engineer Section as they tirelessly worked to improve the defensive infrastructure, overseeing and managing more than 50 projects totaling more than $15 million, ranging from the installation and maintenance of lighting to the design and construction of state of the art entry control points for the largest U.S. Military base in Iraq. These ECPs now include test fire pits for all patrols and convoys to ensure proper function of their crew served weapon systems.
"These [test fire pits] are vital to Soldiers' safety because the last thing you want is for a Soldier to get into a situation where he has to fire his weapon to defend himself and his weapon jams because it wasn't tested," said Grand Prairie, Texas native, Maj. Robert Crockem, brigade engineer officer.
So, the stage is set for the Jungleers of Task Force Hood, 41st IBCT, to continue the mission that the Texas Guardsmen leave behind, but not before the Arrowhead Soldiers turn and bid a warm "adios."