The 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment’s “Desert Rogues” cased their unit colors in a ceremony Wednesday in Fort Stewart’s Marne Garden.
The ceremony began with Lt. Col. Charles Armstrong, commander of the 1/64th Armor, ordering the color guard to come forward with the national and unit colors. Following the national anthem, Col. Douglas Cardinale, commander of the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, instructed Armstrong to “case the colors.”
Armstrong was assisted by Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Littlejohn, 1/64th command sergeant major, who, along with the guidon bearer, furled the unit’s colors — which included several streamers — and cased them.
The Desert Rogues will conduct a similar ceremony to uncase their colors when they arrive in Afghanistan in early April. Once there, the 700 mostly mechanized infantrymen will serve in a light-infantry role supporting a Stryker brigade combat team from another division that already is in theater.
The unit’s mission will be to train Afghanistan National Security Forces so that nation will be able to take the lead in securing its own borders.
“Desert Rogues, you are poised to make history as part of combined armed forces,” Cardinale said to the soldiers standing in formation at parade rest before turning his attention to the guests. “Our soldiers and their families are ready for this mission.”
Quoting the Greek historian Plutarch, Cardinale reminded both soldiers and family members why they’re the Spartan Brigade.
“Spartans do not ask how many enemy there are,” he told them. “Spartans only ask where the enemy is. Never forget that you are Spartans. Any mission, anytime, anywhere.”
During his own remarks, Armstrong summarized the battalion’s long, proud history then admitted their deployment is a “short-notice” deployment, but their ability to accomplish the mission in no way will be diminished by the short notice.
“We are the keepers of our history,” he told his soldiers and their families, reminding them of recent training at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., where they focused on physical fitness, marksmanship and battle drills. “The transition from our Bradleys to light infantry was not difficult. Now we transition to the next chapter of our history.”
Following the ceremony, Armstrong said his troops’ morale is high even though one-third of his soldiers never have deployed to a combat zone and little more than 10 percent of his officers and noncommissioned officers have served tours in Afghanistan.
“This will be a different location with different terrain and different people,” Armstrong said, admitting that although he’s served several tours in Iraq, this also is his first deployment to Afghanistan. “I think all people want the same thing. We all follow (Maslow’s) hierarchy of needs, starting with physical needs then security. We’ll provide that security.”
One of Armstrong’s officers who previously has deployed to Afghanistan is Maj. Tom Hanifen, an infantry officer serving as the battalion S-3. His wife, Jaclyn, waited and watched quietly in the stands with their oldest daughter, Kathryn, 3, during the ceremony.
“This will be his fourth deployment,” she said. “He’s been deployed to Iraq twice, and this will be his second deployment to Afghanistan.”
Hanifen said her husband has served combat tours with the 3rd ID, the 4th ID and the 82nd Airborne Division.
Noting that deployments are never easy and not something she wants to get used to, she said she at least is grateful this time her husband will only be separated from her, Kathryn and 5-month-old Lauren for a nine-month tour, rather than 12 or 15 months.
An additional 200 officers and NCOs from the Spartan Brigade will deploy to Afghanistan this fall, and the commander of the 3rd ID and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, Maj. Gen. Abe Abrams, along with 700 soldiers with the Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion will deploy to Afghanistan in August.
The 2nd HBCT’s 1/30th Infantry Regiment deployed to Afghanistan last month.