JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- History was made at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Monday during a ceremony at Gray Army Airfield.

The newest addition to I Corps and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, proved its members are masters of multitasking, hosting a ceremony with four major events: the uncasing of 16th CAB colors, a brigade change of command, the activation of two new battalion-level formations and for good measure, the redesignation of a squadron.

In March the Department of Defense announced the movement of 16th CAB headquarters
from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, to JBLM. The move will result in an additional 1,400 Soldiers and
44 helicopters to JBLM by summer 2012.

The 16th CAB will be different than most aviation brigades because it will split-based with two major commands. The uncasing portion of the ceremony signified the brigade’s official arrival and start of service at JBLM.

Less than two months ago, the headquarters’ colors were cased in Alaska and have been en route to JBLM. With the colors came about 100 Soldiers to run the headquarters here.

United States Army Alaska commander and U.S. Alaskan Command deputy commander, Maj. Gen. Raymond Palumbo, summed up the 16th CAB’s record of achievements in a single phrase: “They run to the sound of the guns,” Palumbo said.

The ceremony was the Army’s response to what the nation had requested, Palumbo said: more aviation units. He also said it should be no surprise that enormous demand has arisen for aviation during the past decade, beginning with its critical applications in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Today, 16th CAB helicopters fly all over the world, carrying out some of the nation’s most challenging business. Thirty of the brigade’s Kiowa Warriors are in Iraq with about 450 Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry Regiment.

Fifteen Blackhawk medevac helicopters and Chinooks are flying critical missions in Afghanistan, where about 300 Soldiers from elements of 1st Battalion, 52nd General Support Aviation Regiment are currently deployed. The remaining helicopters are now here at JBLM and Fort Wainwright.

“What we’re doing here today is in response to our nation’s demand for more Army aviation,” Palumbo said. “We’re putting finishing touches on the Army’s 12th aviation brigade.”

The 16th CAB ceremony included the activation of 46th Aviation Support Battalion and the 2nd Battalion, 158th Assault Helicopter Regiment. The 4th Squadron, 6th Air Cavalry Regiment, which was already stationed at JBLM, was redesignated and repatched as the 4th Squadron, 6th Attack Reconnaissance Regiment. The mission of 4-6 ARS will remain about the same " but with extra equipment and personnel.

Former commander of 16th CAB, Col. Robert Werthman, traveled from Alaska to relinquish the brigade to the new 16th CAB commander, Col. Robert Dickerson.

Werthman led the unit since August 2009 before passing the colors to Dickerson Aug. 1. Werthman’s next assignment will be in Colorado Springs, where he will become the executive officer to the deputy commander of Northern Command.

Werthman described the ceremony as a “last hoorah” for him, but for the 16th CAB, the “start to a long and distinguished road that will eventually lead the brigade in its entirety to combat operations in Afghanistan.”

He offered encouragement to Dickerson, who arrived at JBLM from Harvard University, where he recently completed a Senior Service College Fellowship.

“My efforts have been easy when compared to the Herculean task ahead of you to properly resource, build and train the brigade,” Werthman said. “I know your leadership will propel this organization to a higher level of excellence.”

Palumbo said the JBLM community is privileged to have Dickerson and his family onboard.
“It’s no surprise that the Army has selected the Dickersons to command this great organization,” Palumbo said.

Dickerson said he was humbled and fortunate to join the 16th CAB. He also acknowledged the brigade’s future successes will require the collective energy of subordinate commanders, staff members and Soldiers.

“Many organizations have had and will continue to make invaluable contributions in making 16th CAB a professional, full spectrum aviation brigade,” Dickerson said. “Make no mistake, it will require a team effort, and I look forward to working with all of you.”

Laura M. Levering: