The 3rd Infantry Division’s 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team welcomed a new commander Wednesday during a change-of-command ceremony in Newman Fitness Center on Fort Stewart. The colorful parade-ground ritual normally is held on spacious Cottrell Field, but was moved indoors due to the heavy rain forecasted.
Col. Kimo Gallahue relinquished command to his friend, Col. Thomas Gukeisen, who — like Gallahue — came to the 3rd ID from the 10th Mountain Division.
Gallahue served as the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s commander for 29 months. He led the Vanguard brigade’s first deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. They deployed last March and returned to Fort Stewart in November 2013. The unit was assigned to Regional Command East, and covered Logar and Wardak provinces. The brigade advised and assisted the Afghan National Security Forces, including the Afghan national army, Afghan uniformed police and the national directorate of security, in addition to aiding local, district and provincial government officials.
Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, commander of 3rd Infantry Division and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, jokingly asked what had happened to Georgia’s nice weather before introducing several honored guests, including Pembroke Mayor Mary Warnell, and the outgoing and incoming Vanguard leaders’ spouses and children.
“Today is an important day of transition for the division and the Vanguard brigade,” Murray said. “Transitions are a fact of life … they are clearly not an end.”
He said this is an exciting time to be a commander, facing such transitional challenges as training, reset and refit. Murray alluded to the Army’s downsizing by mentioning the planned reduction in force, from 45 brigades to 32.
“And, most likely, lower than 32,” he said.
The general said 4th IBCT soldiers trained hard, earned 112 expert infantrymen badges and were successful in their mission abroad.
Murray said division soldiers must not forget the ultimate sacrifice made by their brothers and sisters-in-arms. Trees planted in their honor can be found on Warriors Walk, he said. Murray also asked those assembled to pray for the safety of the Dogface soldiers who still are serving overseas.
The general said command for the brigade was being passed from one competent leader to another.
“Kimo had a great run in this division,” Murray said. The general also thanked Gallahue’s wife, Kristy, for her warmth and compassionate volunteerism toward Vanguard families during her husband’s command.
Gallahue began his last speech as Vanguard commander by thanking his wife and three daughters, Georgia Mae, 13, Carter Bell, 11, and Avery Rose, 9, for their staunch support. Without their willing sacrifice he could not perform his job to the best of his ability, Gallahue said.
To his troops, he said, “You are magnificent.”
The brigade proved itself during its nine-month deployment, the outgoing commander said. The brigade provided medical and fire support, maintained vehicle and other valuable equipment, cleared strategic routes and trained Afghan security forces so they would be able to secure their country, he said. Vanguard soldiers also came under small-arms fire from an aggressive enemy, Gallahue recalled.
Gallahue welcomed Gukeisen and his family, hugging his successor before taking his seat.
Incoming commander Gukeisen was brief in his command-acceptance re-marks. He thanked his predecessor and commanders for welcoming him, his wife, Kate, and their son, Ben, to Coastal Georgia. Gukeisen said the day was special in many ways. In addition to becoming Vanguard’s leader, Gukeisen on Wednesday celebrated his son’s 12th birthday.