172nd Stryker Brigade Legacy to Live on as Unit ‘Reflags,’ Gets New Commanders
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
FAIRBANKS, Alaska, Dec. 15, 2006 The 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team was officially redesignated the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team during a ‘reflagging’ ceremony here yesterday.
U.S. Army Col. Burnett K. Thompson stands with his daughters after assuming command of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. Also during the ceremony, at Fairbanks, Alaska, on Dec. 14, the unit was redesignated 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. Photo by William D. Moss
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
During the ceremony, the brigade commander who led the unit for 16 months in Iraq and six battalion commanders handed their commands to their successors.
Army Lt. Gen. John Brown III, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, acknowledged during the ceremony at the Carlson Community Center how difficult it must have been for the “Arctic Wolves” to see their unit flag cased and to remove the 172nd unit patch from their shoulders.
“I know how much you wanted to case the colors of the units you just brought back from combat,” he told the outgoing brigade commander, Col. Michael Shields, and his troops. “But I will compliment you that you did it with dignity and with class and with perfection.
“You know and your commanders know that this is part of a bigger effort to improve the United States Army … and the United States Army in Alaska, and I congratulate you.”
The reflagging represents major changes taking place within the Army structure and its capabilities, Brown said. “It is part of an Armywide transformation -- a transformation from a division-based Army of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm, to a brigade-based Army for the future.”
Although the soldiers who served in the 172nd Stryker BCT assumed a new unit name and affiliation, new unit colors and a new 25th Infantry Division patch, Brown assured them their former unit won’t be forgotten. “As we complete the reflaggings across the Army, and especially here today, we will honor and remember,” he said.
He noted that troops who served with the 172nd in combat will always retain the privilege of wearing the unit’s patch on their right shoulders.
In addition to a new unit identity, the 1-25th Stryker Brigade Combat Team soldiers also got new unit leaders during yesterday’s ceremony.
Shields passed command of the battalion to Col. Burdett “Burt” Thompson, who previously served at the Pentagon with the Joint Staff’s Strategic Plans and Policy Division. Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Cervantes became the brigade’s new command sergeant major, replacing Command Sgt. Maj. William Ulibarri.
Six new battalion commanders and command sergeants major also assumed their new positions within the 1-25th’s command team.
Maj. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of U.S. Army Alaska, praised the unit and the leadership its commanders and command sergeants major demonstrated in Iraq. “Men, you have proven your mettle,” he said. “I am grateful that our Army has leaders like you.”
Jacoby said he’s confident the new team will continue these successes and carry on the former 172nd Stryker BCT’s proud heritage. These new leaders bring experience and talents of their own to the brigade as it goes about resetting the force so it is combat-ready, he said. “I know you will meet the challenge,” he said. “You will provide the outstanding leadership these soldiers deserve.”
Shields praised his unit’s performance during its 450-plus-day tour, one of the longest combat deployments of any Army unit. He pointed to the brigade’s partnerships with Iraqi rmy, Iraqi police, and local and regional leaders, all while hunting insurgents around the clock.
“There was no place we wouldn’t go, mounted or dismounted,” Shields said, citing the brigade’s “truly magnificent performance.”
Shields encouraged the brigade’s soldiers to always remember their service with the 172nd Stryker BCT. “As we case the colors of one great brigade, we will continue … to carry on its legacy,” he said.
The brigade, with a history dating back to World War I, had a long iteration of affiliations before being designated the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team on Oct. 16, 2003.
Equipped with the state-of-the-art, eight-wheeled, 19-ton Stryker combat vehicles, the 172nd deployed to Iraq in August 2005 to serve what would become the longest combat deployment for Alaska soldiers since the Vietnam War.
In Iraq, the “Arctic Wolves” earned distinction as they took on what Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey called “the toughest challenge of any unit in Iraq,” including a four-month extension during which they were sent to Baghdad to help quell growing sectarian violence.
Harvey presented the brigade its Iraq campaign streamer during its redeployment ceremony here Dec. 12. That streamer joined others the brigade’s predecessors earned as the 86th Division’s 172nd Infantry Brigade during World War I, and as 3rd Platoon, 86th Reconnaissance Troop, during World War II.