AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq — For the first time, the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, also referred to as "Task Force Redleg” is the only U.S. Army Field Artillery Battalion currently deployed to a combat area of operations.
On August 12, 2023, Soldiers gathered on Al Asad Air Base for the transfer of authority between the 1st Battalion, 134th Field Artillery Regiment “Task Force Reaper,” and TF Redleg. The unit colors unfurled signify the beginning of the base missions for TF Redleg and the end for TF Reaper, who will head home to Columbus, Ohio, after a nine-month deployment.
TF Redleg formally assumes authority for Al Asad Air Base operations in support of Combat Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Russell P. Lemler, native of Knoxville, Tennessee, will take control of six U.S., Polish, Norwegian, and German task forces. This unit deployment will also include support for Operation Enduring Freedom, an ongoing mission to defeat Daesh and counter terrorist threats in the region.
“Story matters,” said U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. Michael Bysrtry, commander of the 1-134th FA. “How each of us builds our story, tells our story. How you play a positive role in the story of those around you matters—that matters. We just cased our colors which has many streamers that represent histories of centuries past. And at some point, we will put a new streamer on those colors that will represent this story for our Battalion. And while the words on those streamers might say operation inherent resolve, 2022-20223, the letters on that streamer will be threaded with the memories of your story—stories only my Soldiers will remember. Stories in which each of you played a role.”
Before concluding his farewell remarks, Lt. Col. Bystry expressed his confidence in TF Redleg and Lt. Col. Lemler taking over the mission. He then inferred the many relationships forged while here and reminisced on the times they shared with coalition partners and local nationals.
“Thank you for playing a role in our story,” said Bystry. “Our story was only one chapter in the history of Al Asad, and for the past year, this chapter was our world. Being able to work with each of you and those who came before you is what made the entire journey worth it.
He continued to say “It has been a blessing to bridge the gap between two of the best artillery battalions in the United States Army, both from the 10th Mountain Division. You are the right guy to lead Al Asad through the next chapter. Your Soldiers are the right team to protect this force. Your legacy will live in the story told by those around you right now while you are here. So please build a world-class experience for everyone around you.”
Iraqi Air Force Staff Maj. Gen. Abbas Fadel Damer, Al Asad Air Base commander, attended as guest speaker for the ceremony. As an interpreter translated his words, he expressed gratitude and appreciation to the outgoing command team Lt. Col. Bystry and Command Sgt. Maj. Justin Sprankle. He then welcomed Lt. Col. Lemler, Command Sgt. Maj. John Folger, and the rest of TF Redleg.
Lt. Col. Lemler concluded the ceremony by thanking Lt. Col. Bystry for his outstanding leadership over the last eight months and wishing the outgoing team well on their journey back home. He also reaffirmed the unit’s commitment to continuing the Al Asad Air Base partnership.
“It’s with great pride the 2-15 FA assumes the mission of defending Al Asad Air Base alongside the 443rd Air Expeditionary Squadron, the Base Operation Support and Integration (BOS-I), Task Forces defenders— Vikings, Toro, Lexington and Teslar, Polish Military, tremendous asset from our medical community, and many dedicated tenants, said Lt. Col. Lemler. “We thank Staff Maj Gen. Abass and the Iraqi Military for their partnership as we work and train in their country. The Soldiers of TF Redleg will serve this base well. We look forward to facing the challenges with all of you. We are all a team, and together we can accomplish greatness.”