When Col. Robert Whittle Jr. arrived at Fort Hood nearly two years ago, it was his family’s first time stationed in his spouse’s home state.
“We were pleased when we arrive about the incredible teamwork,” Whittle said of he and Kathleen’s reaction to taking command of 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “We felt at home immediately.”
He said it was the “phenomenal” command climate that allowed him to successfully lead the brigade on a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
“Lt. Gen. (Mark) Milley gave us a mission to deploy the brigade out there and increase the velocity of retrograde and mitigate risk for the coalition forces in Afghanistan,” Whittle said during an interview in the week leading up to his relinquishment of command.
With 3,200 soldiers, Black Jack was the only full-size brigade combat team in Afghanistan. Soldiers provided a security force assistance mission for about nine months and served in three regional commands.
“Soldiers of the brigade combat team proved to be incredibly agile and adaptive,” Whittle said. “The NCOs and officers were technically and tactically proficient. As a result, the brigade was fully successful.”
Upon redeployment, the brigade’s size increased by 20 percent. First Battalion, 9th Cavalry Regiment, joined the brigade and the brigade special troops battalion transitioned to an engineer battalion.
The number of companies in Black Jack grew from 30 to 39.
Thanks to a great partnership with the 36th Engineer Brigade, which provided the new engineer battalion, the transition was seamless.
“They gave us the best equipment, the best soldiers and the best leadership,” Whittle said. “We had a great partnership in that effort.”
As Whittle leaves for the Marine Corps War College in Virginia, he said it’s working with soldiers that he will miss the most.
“I realized I don’t know when I’ll be able to again,” he said. “If I could be a platoon leader again, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”