By Iuliana Petre
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – Members of the Fort Hood community and former service members affiliated with the 3rd Signal Brigade met at the unit's headquarters Tuesday for the inactivation ceremony of the final active duty signal brigade to stand down in the Army.
Col. Robert L. Bethea Jr. relinquished command after serving 34 months as the brigade's commander.
"The price that we pay for progress is that we don't require as many soldiers to operate (equipment and units)," Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, said in his opening remarks.
The surge of combat forces to the Middle East last year did not include a surge of support units, which means units like the 3rd Signal Brigade accomplished its mission without additional personnel, equipment or support from like units, Odierno said.
Regardless, 3rd Signal Brigade soldiers "got the mission, took the mission and accomplished the mission to the highest standard possible," said Odierno, who pointed out that the brigade was responsible for the 500 million phone calls placed by soldiers during the Operation Iraqi Freedom rotation from 2006-08.
The soldiers of the brigade deployed to more than 30 locations across Iraq and provided "99 percent reliable communication," Bethea said.
In his Army career, Bethea was assigned to and deployed three times with 3rd Signal Brigade units.
His first deployment was with the 57th Signal Battalion, 3rd Signal Brigade, as the A Company commander in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991. He called the deactivation of the unit "bittersweet."
"I hate to say goodbye to the soldiers and memories in this brigade," Bethea said during the ceremony. "You will always be my soldiers."
Bethea, who will assume responsibility as Army staff signal officer at the Pentagon on May 1, said he has seen a lot of transformation during his time with the 3rd Signal Brigade, and former brigade leaders echoed similar sentiments.
"I have mixed emotions," retired Col. Roger O'Dwyer, former deputy brigade commander, said about the inactivation of the unit.
"Automation usually adds more people, but the signal corps reduced people, which essentially lessened the tail and put more tooth into the Army," said O'Dwyer, who was assigned to the 3rd Signal Brigade from 1980 to 1982. "I'm glad it had a proud history but sad to see it go."
Master Sgt. Victor Mose, who deployed with the brigade during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2006-08 as the brigade's equal opportunity adviser, compared the inactivation to leaving a family reunion, saying that he is filled with memories of what it was.
"Tomorrow, we're all going to have to find new jobs," said Mose, who was with the unit for three and a half years.
In an era of technological revolution, "we will not forget what (the 3rd Signal Brigade) has done to support our deployed Army," Odierno said.
Given the 3rd Signal Brigade's history of inactivations and reactivations since the unit was formed in 1946, it will be no surprise if the "Triple Threat" brigade, as it calls itself, returns to service someday.
"We will remain in (inactivation status) until called to service again by our nation," Bethea said.
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