Before outgoing 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team commander Col. Roger Cloutier passed the brigade’s colors and his command to incoming commander Col. James Crider Friday, he said the real purpose of the ceremony was to honor the 3,800 soldiers on Cottrell Field and the families who support them.
"Change is good for an organization," Cloutier said, adding that the occasion was bittersweet.
The colonel said he would miss leading the 1st brigade, but was ready to take on his next challenge as the 3rd Infantry Division’s chief of staff.
"It’s a critical job," he said. "The real mission is to support these brigades."
The former Raider brigade commander said he learned to give his soldiers a mission and then "stand back and let them do their job."
Under Cloutier’s command, the 1st HBCT simultaneously trained to respond to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, or a domestic crisis such as the 9/11 attack, while also preparing for deployment to Iraq. The brigade deployed to Iraq in December 2009, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Raiders took on an advise-and-assist role for Iraqi troops during a 12-month deployment.
"We were the only brigade in all of Baghdad when Operation New Dawn kicked off," 1st HBCT public affairs officer Maj. Vince Porter said, referring to the drawdown of troops in Iraq. Operation New Dawn began on Sept. 1.
Porter said the average ratio during the Army’s advise-and-assist mission in Iraq was generally one American brigade to one Iraqi division.
"The 1st brigade partnered with six Iraqi Army divisions and three operational commands," he said. Porter said the size of the area the 1st brigade monitored was "bigger than Rhode Island and a little smaller than Delaware."
Third ID commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo congratulated the 1st Brigade on its flexibility and mission successes.
"I learned the Raider way by watching them perform this mission," Cucolo said. "They took the place of four U.S. brigades in the capital city of Iraq."
Cucolo also advised 1st Brigade troops not to "let Col. Crider’s quiet demeanor fool you."
"If you cut him (Crider) he would bleed blue and white," the general said.
Crider formerly served as the 3rd ID’s assistant chief of staff for training, deploying in 2009 to Iraq as part of the U.S. Division North. One of his previous Iraq deployments included his command of the 1-4 Cavalry, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan., during the surge.
Cloutier said his final goodbye at the podium, thanking a long list of people. He choked up when he told his wife of 23 years, "[Diane] you are the air that I breathe."
Cloutier then welcomed Crider, telling him "I left a note and a Raider cigar on your desk."