FORT HOOD — After leading 3,200 soldiers on a deployment to Afghanistan, Col. Robert Whittle bid farewell to 2nd “Black Jack” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, during a Friday ceremony at Cooper Field.
When it arrived in theater, 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.
“The brigade excelled at every challenge,” said Brig Gen. Michael Bills, division commander. “(Whittle) led from the front and set the perfect example.”
Whittle led the brigade for nearly two years, which included the deployment and the train up at Fort Hood and at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La. To get to Louisiana, the brigade conducted the largest ground convoy to leave Fort Hood since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“Training paid off and we hit the ground running,” Whittle said.
Unfortunately, the brigade lost a soldier during its nine months downrange. First Lt. Jason Togi was killed by a roadside bomb, and a moment of silence was held during the ceremony in his honor.
Upon returning to Fort Hood, the brigade grew by 20 percent, taking on a new battalion and transitioning a special troops battalion into one of engineers.
“Today the leadership of the brigade changes ... but this brigade continues a full sprint to prepare for its next victory,” said Whittle, who is heading off to the Marine Corps War College in Quantico, Va.
Col. Sean Bernabe stepped in Friday as the new brigade commander, calling Black Jack a “well-oiled machine.”
“You’re known for your agility, creative problem solving, discipline and lethality,” he told the soldiers in formation across the field.
Bernabe comes to Fort Hood from the National War College at Fort NcNair, Washington, D.C. This is his first stop at Fort Hood during his 22-year career and he is joined by his wife, Jayne, and 14-year-old son Jackson.
“I look forward to service together as we write the next chapter of Black Jack history,” he said.
Read more about the Black Jack Brigade in Wednesday’s Fort Hood Herald.