By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – The 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team has brought several firsts to Fort Hood: the first light infantry unit to grace the post's heavy stomping grounds and the first full brigade to deploy to Afghanistan from Central Texas.
The brigade cased its colors on Tuesday morning in preparation for its upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. Flights carrying the Big Red One soldiers have already begun leaving Fort Hood, and the big push will begin this month and carry on through July.
"Now we go off to a hard, challenging, important fight to prove that we are the best of the best of the best and to uphold the traditions and successes that the other units here at Fort Hood have forged over the last years, largely in Iraq," said Col. John M. Spiszer, the brigade's commander.
The brigade was activated on April 19, 2007, two years earlier than expected in "order to build a combat-ready unit," he said.
The soldiers were supposed to form the brigade at Fort Knox, Ky., not Fort Hood. Following their return from Afghanistan next year, the brigade will move to the Kentucky post, taking a combat unit back there for the first time in many years, Spiszer said.
The colonel and Maj. Gen. Robert E. Durbin, division commander, thanked III Corps and Fort Hood for accommodating the brigade and helping prepare its soldiers, saying it "could not have been done better."
Durbin traveled to Fort Hood this week from Fort Riley, where the division is headquartered. He attended the brigade's town hall meeting on Monday and the casing on Tuesday. The division band also came to Texas to play during Tuesday's ceremony.
Since its expedited and diverted arrival in Central Texas, the unit has grown in size and experience. At the time of its official activation last year, the brigade had fewer than 2,000 soldiers and no equipment. The brigade prepares to deploy this month and next with more than 3,500 soldiers and a full arsenal of equipment and weapons.
The brigade just received its official orders last week and those were then disseminated to the battalions.
The soldiers spent a month at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., early this year, and the brigade's battalions already have storied histories formed on the streets of Fallujah, Adhamiya, An Najaf and Baghdad in Iraq.
The brigade now goes to a fight in Afghanistan – an important fight, Spiszer said.
"We are going to where the war started, where the Taliban and al-Qaida still contest against us on a daily basis," he said. "Our actions will continue to ensure that they cannot bring the fight here and that they cannot continue to prevent progress, peace and stability in Afghanistan."
Durbin praised the brigade's soldiers for their courage and sacrifices.
"I don't think you know how good you really are," he said.
He told the soldiers that their confidence in themselves, their buddies and their units would heighten each day during the deployment.
The next time Durbin addresses the soldiers they will know how good they really are, he said.
"You will live up to the division motto: 'No mission to difficult, no sacrifice too great,'" Durbin added.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7547. Stairrett embedded with the brigade during its January/February rotation to the National Training Center. To read her "NTC Field Journal," go to www.kdhnews.com/news/story.aspx?s=22484&q.