By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD - The Wagonmasters are going west.

The 13th Sustainment Command's 15th Sustainment Brigade, which returned to Fort Hood from Iraq in late May and early June, is set to relocate to Fort Bliss. The move is expected to be complete when the brigade changes command and cases its colors during a Nov. 30 ceremony at Fort Hood. Also during the ceremony, the brigade's Special Troops Battalion will get a new commander.

The brigade's relocation is part of a 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission decision for the Army's active-duty sustainment brigades, and is one of the last moves in that plan to occur, said Col. Larry Phelps, the 15th's commander.

Fort Hood leaders learned in 2005 that one of the post's two sustainment brigades - the 15th and 4th Sustainment Brigade - would move to Fort Bliss, but didn't find out until about two years ago which one would go. The 15th's arrival at Fort Bliss was aligned with the arrival of the 1st Armored Division there, Phelps said.

The 15th's soldiers deployed to Iraq in September 2009 to Contingency Operating

Location Q-West and helped lead the sustainment mission in northern and central Iraq. The brigade took on more responsibilities than any other sustainment brigade in the history of the Iraq war, Brig. Gen. Paul Wentz, 13th Sustainment commander, said in May.

The brigade also began work on closing Q-West and handing that area over to the government of Iraq. Phelps and the brigade's senior noncommissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. Nathaniel Bartee, handed that mission over May 25 to the 3rd Sustainment Brigade, according to information from the 15th.

They were greeted by soldiers from the 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, which relocated in May 2009, from Fort Polk, La., to Fort Bliss, according to information from the Army. The battalion will fall under the brigade, which will retain its Special Troops Battalion and Financial Management Company.

The flow of soldiers new to the brigade stopped a month ago and those men and women instead reported to Fort Bliss, Phelps said.

The brigade's deployable size is 375 soldiers, and about 100 of those soldiers at Fort Hood will make the move to Fort Bliss. The rest will follow a typical post-deployment round of permanent changes of station discharges and retirements. The rest will be reassigned to other units at Fort Hood.

The brigade will be at about 65 percent strength when its colors are uncased at Fort Bliss, Phelps said.

Phelps will relinquish command of the brigade to Lt. Col. (promotable) James Ryan on Nov. 30. A replacement for 15th Special Troops Battalion commander Lt. Col. Pavla Lodi was unknown as of Wednesday. Bartee will move with the brigade to Fort Bliss.

Phelps and his family will remain in the area as there is "nothing to pull us away from our Fort Hood and Central Texas family," he said.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary. For more on this story, including where families can go to get their questions answered, read next week's Fort Hood Herald.

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