An infantryman through and through, Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna said he will remember daily his time in the 3rd Cavalry Regiment.
During the two years he served as the “Brave Rifles” senior noncommissioned officer, Akuna instituted many first-time programs for the armored brigade combat team he helped transform into an infantry-centric Stryker brigade. He initiated the unit’s first Expert Infantryman Badge testing, a pre-Ranger School course and he sent teams to compete at the Best Ranger Competition.
“It was long, hard and tedious, but I can say with confidence that we did it,” he said during his final remarks to the regiment Friday. Akuna bid farewell to the Brave Rifles to join First Army Division West as its top NCO.
“Overall, for the past 22 months, the regiment has been moving fast and furious to train and certify all its formations for future operations,” he said. “So I thank every trooper, noncommissioned officer, warrant officer and officers of the regiment for your support, trust and confidence. Because of you, we met the (commander’s) intent. Because of you we made the regiment what it is today.”
Stepping in as Rifles 7 was Command Sgt. Maj. Roger L. Heinze, who moved from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team.
“It’s all about family, and this allows my family to stay here in one place,” Heinze said. One of his three sons is serving with 3rd Brigade Combat Team. This assignment will be Heinze’s first with Strykers, and said he is looking forward to the ride.
“To the troopers of the regiment, I pledge to do my level best at preserving the great history and proud heritage of this elite organization as well as give you my best every day,” Heinze said.
Heinze previously served in regiment as the top NCO for 2nd Squadron during the unit’s last deployment to Iraq.
“The biggest thing to maintain in the regiment is the awesome history, the lineage and the camaraderie that is associated with the regiment of mounted riflemen,” he said.
Despite more than 20 years in the infantry, Akuna, too embraced this heritage.
He said he was often asked why, as an infantryman, he wore the yellow cord of armor on his Stetson, and his answer was simple — he represented the entirety of the storied 176-year-old regiment. His Ranger tab, Expert Infantryman Badge and Pathfinder Badge showed he is an infantryman by trade, but the cord showed he was a proud member of the cavalry.
“Within the two years I’ve been here, (I’m proud of) being able to see our infantry teams, squads and platoons buy in and accept the history and lineage and maintain their identity as infantrymen,” Akuna said.
Now, he said he’s focused on the mission at Division West, which is responsible for training, mobilizing and demobilizing National Guard and Reserve troops.
“I’ve been focused on active duty my entire career. This is an opportunity for me to understand how the Reserve and National Guard works,” Akuna said.
“The Army changes,” he said. “You have to be adept to change.”
To prepare, he said, he’s been meeting with governors and other state officials.
Contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.