The 81st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) accepted authority for the defense of Logistical Support Area (LSA) Anaconda in Balad from the 1st BCT of the 82nd Airborne Division during a Transfer of Authority ceremony at LSA Anaconda April 18.
With numerous guests and personnel watching the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Oscar Hilman, 81st BCT commander, accepted the job of security from Col. Patrick Donahue II, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade.
The Fort Bragg, N.C., unit has overseen operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II since January. Comprised mostly of the 3rd Battalion "Blue Devils", 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, they conducted thousands of patrols; manned guard towers and entry control points, and conducted numerous raids resulting in the seizure of weapons now no longer available to anti-coalition forces. They are currently in the process of redeploying back to North Carolina.
Part of the ceremony included, Hilman and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Barr uncasing the 81st BCT's colors as a symbol of acceptance of the transferred authority.
Col. (P) James Chambers, commander of the 13th Corps Support Command which provides logistical support to units all over Iraq, also spoke at the ceremony. "I am proud of the spirit of cooperation between the coalition 82nd Airborne and the 81st BCT," said Chambers. LSA Anaconda force protection allows the units based here to focus on their mission, said Chambers. "In short, force protection here enables theater wide mission accomplishment."
Donahue, commander of 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, praised the 81st BCT's motivation and enthusiasm. "I know I am leaving this area of responsibility in good hands," he said. Donahue reiterated the 81st BCT's motto, "First in War, First in Peace," and stated that the 81st BCT's citizen-soldiers background would aid them in their training and interactions with the citizen-soldiers of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) that are now assigned to the 81st BCT.
This is the first time the 81st Brigade has served as a combat element in theater since World War II. Their movement to Iraq represents the largest deployment of the Washington State National Guard, with assigned units from California and Minnesota, since that war.
Hilman accepted the transfer with praise for the 82nd's accomplishments and effectiveness. "Our mission remains the same as the 82nd Airborne's," said Hilman. "We will maintain the same high standards of excellence." He also thanked the 82nd Airborne's hospitality during the transition period and said he was pleased with the unit's willingness to share information about the keys to success in maintaining a safe and secure environment in the district of Balad.
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"The 82nd Devil Brigade is truly a great organization. Their assertiveness, dedication to duty, and selfless service has contributed immensely to the security of LSA Anaconda," Hilman said. "We will continue the great efforts and initiatives set by the 82nd with training, supporting, and integrating the ICDC in all of our operations," he said.
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Additionally, 1-303rd Armor Battalion, and 1-161 Infantry Battalion of the 81st BCT conducted their Transfer of Authority ceremony's on April 17 with their respective out-going units.
The 1-303rd Armor Battalion accepted authority for Camp Victory South in Baghdad from the 2-505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st BCT during its Transfer of Authority ceremony.
Lt. Col. Ronald Kapral, 1-303rd Armor Battalion commander said the 2-505th is one of the finest units in the Army today. "Their professionalism and preparedness were demonstrated by the execution of the relief in place mission," he said. "The 1-303rd Battalion is fully prepared to perform our mission. We are trained and ready." The 1-303rd Battalion will perform security and support operations at Victory Base South in Baghdad.
The 1-161 Infantry Battalion accepted authority from 2-6 Infantry Regiment of the 1st Armored Division during its Transfer of Authority ceremony in Baghdad. The 1-161 Battalion will be responsible for the security and support operations of Forward Operating Base Gunner.
The 81st BCT has reported duty ready to take on its mission of security and support operations. Coupled with outstanding morale and motivation, they continue the fight against the war on terror in its fulfillment of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
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Washington State Unit Locations
HHC 81st BCT Headquarters, Tacoma
181 Support Battalion Headquarters, Seattle
1-303rd Armor Battalion Headquarters, Kent
1-161 Infantry Battalion Headquarters, Spokane
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