It was not disappointing to perform the final color casing of the Long Knife Brigade, Col. William Benson said Thursday. The symbolic gesture of the unit’s inactivation was both “fitting and warranted” and doesn’t “erase what these soldiers have accomplished.”
In its short eight-year existence, 4th “Long Knife” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, accomplished its mission — to contribute to America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and “the need for the brigade is no longer. It accomplished its assigned mission,” Benson said.
Of the brigade’s 96 months in existence, 47 were spent during three deployments to Iraq and one deployment to Afghanistan. Thousands of soldiers deployed under the unit’s colors, and 38 paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“It will live on in the memory of those who served,” said the final Long Knife 6 during Thursday’s color casing ceremony at Cooper Field.
“We have broken bread with the Afghan and Iraqi people. We have shed blood with them and shared in their hardships. It is now up to them to seize their own future and they are doing so,” Benson said. “So this is not a time to hang our head and fret about the lost legacy of the Long Knife Brigade.”
First Sgt. Fernando Fernandez was there when 4th Brigade Combat Team was activated at Fort Bliss, and he was there Thursday as Long Knife stood down.
“It was unique showing up to a unit that had nothing,” he said. “We had to borrow paper, everything.”
He came to Long Knife as a sergeant first class — the first one in the brigade — in April 2005 and spent a total of six years with the unit. He missed the brigade’s second deployment for a stint with First Army Division West. He even recalled when the brigade’s first commander, then Col. Stephen Twitty, held a contest to name the brigade.
“I experienced history; it’s one of the things I’ll always remember,” Fernandez said. “All of my combat experience has been with this brigade.”
He is currently the top noncommissioned officer for Long Knife’s Headquarters and Headquarters Troop’s and will remain part of the provisional brigade through January to see personnel and equipment distributed among Fort Hood and Army units.
“This brigade was established for war ... during a time of American conflict and I was part of it,” Fernandez said.
Also casing their colors Thursday were 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment; 27th Brigade Support Battalion; and 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion. Long Knife’s three maneuver elements will join the division’s other brigade combat teams — 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment was reflagged a battalion and moved to 2nd Brigade; 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment joined 1st Brigade; and 3rd Brigade received 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment.
“They will move on and take their dedication and expertise and excellence and leadership to other units to accomplish other missions,” said Benson, who joined III Corps. “They will take the best of their experience of the Long Knife Brigade with them and the Army will be a better place.
“I’m already getting feedback from other commanders inside the division, thanking us for the quality of soldiers and leaders we’re sending them. That makes me feel proud.”
Long Knife was one of 10 brigade combat teams announced in June to inactivate by 2017 as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
“The dedication, devotion, duty, valor, professional and selfless service of the soldiers on the field today and those that preceded them in the Long Knife Brigade are unparalleled,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, division commander. “Let’s take a brief moment to show our gratitude as they stand before us one final time. ... Your legacy and greatness will forever live in the rolls of Army history.”