By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Fort Hood Herald
Col. Gary Volesky was a young infantry officer at Fort Knox, Ky., when he told his wife he would never again serve in an armored brigade or cavalry unit.
Fifteen years later he was in a Ranger regiment at Fort Benning, Ga., when a general called him and congratulated him on his new job: commanding the 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. His wife, LeAnn, laughed and reminded him of what he said back at Fort Knox.
Volesky talked about his arrival at Fort Hood and the 1st Cavalry during a ceremony Friday where he relinquished command to Col. Douglas C. Crissman.
Crissman served as director of the Heavy Brigade Combat Team Warfighters' Forum at Fort Hood from August 2009 to January 2010 before attending the Joint Forces Staff College. He and his wife, Carolyn, have two teenagers: Garrett and Haley.
Volesky's uneasiness left the day in 2002 when he arrived in Central Texas, he said. He attributed that to the strong ties between the units and community that surrounds them.
The Volesky family - Gary, LeAnn and son, Alex - were immediately welcomed and became part of the biggest family of which the colonel said he could ever have hoped to be a part.
The community members made the biggest impression on Volesky. They aren't cheerleaders who give pats on the back and tell soldiers to go forth and do well, he said.
"They take you by the hand and lead you in the direction you need to go," he said. "Always supporting you, doing things for you that you know you need, but don't want to ask for. They are always there.
"I can never thank this community enough for what you have done for us. You are the heart and soul of the cav."
Maj. Gen. Daniel Allyn, 1st Cavalry commander, said Volesky was an exceptional leader and soldier. Allyn served with the XVIII Airborne Corps-led Multinational Corps-Iraq in early 2009, executing patrols with Volesky in Mosul.
"I witnessed firsthand your out-front leadership and watched you set an enviable example of what right looks like for the Greywolf soldiers you have served and commanded," Allyn said Friday.
Volesky said the pinnacle of his command was seeing his soldiers accomplish their missions in some of the toughest areas of Iraq. Brigade leaders expertly partnered with the Iraqi army, police and border guards and transferred security primacy to Iraqi security forces, "a feat many thought impossible when we arrived in theater."
Volesky went on to outline accomplishments among the battalions:
The 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment conducted operations along the Syrian/Iraq border, stopping the flow of righters crossing and reducing smuggling operations that funded the insurgency.
The 2nd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment integrated economic development projects in the city, reducing unemployment and improving the quality of life.
The 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment broke al-Qaida's back in Iraq's black market fuel schemes that funded the insurgents' operations.
The 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment was the division's and nation's main effort while conducting operations in the most difficult part of Mosul.
The 215th Brigade Support Battalion coached, mentored and taught the Iraqi army to be self-sufficient by using their own logistics system.
The 3rd Special Troops Battalion provided intelligence and communications support and provided security for state department personnel movements to conduct key meetings with Iraqi officials.
Crissman thanked those soldiers before him Friday - the same ones who conducted the operations outlined by Volesky. "Though this ceremony signifies a change of command, we all know that where the rubber meets the road, very little has actually changed in the Greywolf Brigade today," he said. "I don't need to tell you that this brigade's reputation precedes it wherever it goes and has for many years."
Volesky, who will stay with the 1st Cavalry and serve as special assistant to the commander, dedicated the ceremony to the brigade soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice during its three deployments to Iraq.
"When someone asks me why I am so passionate about what I do, it is because of them," he said.
"They judge me every day. I want their families to know that their sacrifice was worth it. That they are the reason we are winning this war and we couldn't win without them. We will never forget them, nor will we ever fail them."
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.