The task given to Col. John B. Richardson IV was not easy.
Upon taking command in November 2011, Richardson led one of the Army’s most historic units, the “Brave Rifles,” through a change in identity. Under his watch, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a heavy brigade combat team with tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, became the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, a Stryker brigade filled with 108 infantry squads.
As he addressed the unit one final time during a command change ceremony Thursday at Cameron Field, the 74th colonel of the regiment used a line from his incoming speech: “Remember, cavalry isn’t a branch and it isn’t a mission. Cavalry is a state of mind,” he said.
“The equipment might change, the organizational structure may evolve, but the essence of the cavalry remains the same,” Richardson continued. “These traditions and this mindset did not change in the regiment throughout the conversion. ... We take forward the red and white, the crossed sabers, the lineage and the traditions, but most importantly the state of mind.”
Part of tradition
Not only did the transition entail gaining 10 variants of the Stryker vehicle, it also meant rotating in about 3,000 new troopers — losing the tankers who often aspire to join the storied unit and gaining infantrymen who had never even experienced a spur ride.
“All soldiers want to be a part of a unique, elite or special organization,” said Richardson, who is headed to Washington, D.C., where he will work in the Joint Plans office of the Pentagon.
The regiment will test its new skills at a spring rotation at the National Training Center, under new commander Col. Cameron Cantlon.
“You executed the duties of your mission with originality, confidence and character,” Brig. Gen. Joseph Martin said to Richardson during his speech as the presiding officer of the command change ceremony. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of you and your incredible team.”
Richardson said his three priorities for success were leader development, creating a learning organization and developing team players.
He aimed to decentralize leadership to allow his junior officers to step up and problem-solve creatively. The end goal was a cohesive team with ranks filled with adaptive leaders.
“What you see in front of you today is an experiment in mission command,” he said pointing toward the formation of troopers on Cameron Field. “I’m happy and relieved to say the experiment was a success.
“The lesson we’ll all take away from the last two years is the importance of building a cohesive team built on trust,” he later expanded. “Trust is something you have to earn. You have to empower your junior leaders and show them you trust them to make decisions.”
Cantlon said he plans to continue Richardson’s emphasis on leader development as he steps in as the 75th colonel of the regiment.
“I’ll carry on what’s already in place. It’s a fantastic team I’m inheriting,” he said. “I’m not going to change what’s already started and grow upon it.”
Cantlon previously served in the regiment, as well as at the 1st Cavalry Division and III Corps. He most recently finished time at the Army War College in Pennsylvania.
“I’m certain that in the relay, the baton will not be dropped by these two in transition,” Martin said. “The next leg of the race will be run at the same level of urgency and tenacity.”
As the ceremony ended and Richardson shook hands with the soldiers, leaders and civilian community members who formed a receiving line on the parade field, he said he’s not saying goodbye to Fort Hood or the Brave Rifles.
“In the cavalry we never say goodbye. We say, ‘Until the next post.’ Goodbye is too final.”