FORT HOOD — With more than 20 years experience in the infantry, Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick K. Akuna said serving in the 3rd Cavalry Regiment taught him to embrace the history of mounted riflemen.

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.

Akuna led his fellow infantrymen into uncharted territory as the 3rd Cavalry Regiment completed its transition to a light infantry, Stryker brigade, while keeping its traditions strong.

“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,” he said.

On Friday, Akuna bid farewell to the “Brave Rifles” to join First Army Division West as its top noncommissioned officer. The division 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.

To prepare, he said, he’s been meeting with governors and other state officials.

Stepping in at the regiment is 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,” said Heinze, whose oldest of three sons is serving in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. This assignment will also be Heinze’s first with the Strykers.

“The Army changes,” he said. “You have to be adept to change.”

Contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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