By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

Lt. Col. Paula Lodi thanked the 1st Cavalry Division's band Thursday morning for reminding her that it was a blessing to serve under a commander who inspected his troops on horseback to "Margaritaville."

She was referring to Col. Larry Phelps and a style of leadership that has made him stand out at Fort Hood.

Phelps and Lodi cased the colors of the 15th Sustainment Brigade and the 15th Special Troops Battalion, respectively, Thursday at Fort Hood's Cooper Field in preparation for an upcoming deployment to Iraq. The brigade is assigned to the 13th Sustainment Command, which is deployed to Iraq.

While preparing for its mission in the Middle East, which will include moving equipment and soldiers out of Iraq as part of the drawdown, soldiers from the brigade have manned and orchestrated some of the post's biggest events: Freedom Fests, Phantom Thunder motorcycle rallies and Operation Clean Sweep. Soldiers also assisted in firefighting efforts on post earlier this year and hurricane relief on the Gulf Coast.

To say the soldiers and leaders can't wait to get downrange is an understatement, Lodi said Thursday.

"We have a tough mission facing us, but when it's just too hard for everyone else, it's just about right for the 'Wagonmasters,'" Phelps said.

This is the third deployment for the brigade in less than five years. This time the brigade's soldiers will serve with the 3rd Infantry Division in Multinational Division-North and provide command and control of support missions from Habur Gate on the Turkish border to just north of Baghdad, according to information from the brigade.

Phelps said to the leaders and soldiers before him that it was an honor to serve with them at this critical juncture.

The community hates casing ceremonies, said Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, because it means soldiers are leaving.

"All of you like uncasing ceremonies much more than you do casing ceremonies, but we, as a nation, needed this casing ceremony," he said.

There's no unit in the United States Army better prepared, better equipped or better led to take the mission the 15th has got to do, he added.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at or (254) 501-7547.

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