The 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team added a scarlet streamer to the Spartan flag and another emblem for soldiers to wear on their blue dress uniforms when the brigade received its third Meritorious Unit Commendation on Tuesday for serving in Iraq.
The Spartans also bid farewell to former 2nd Brigade commander Col. Charles Sexton and welcomed new commander Col. Douglas Cardinale in a change-of-command ceremony inside Newman Gym. Sexton and his wife, Melody, announced they soon will depart for their next assignment at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
3rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo said he had experienced continuous service with the 2nd brigade, having handed the colors to Sexton when he took command of the unit in 2008. Cucolo said it was appropriate to complete the cycle and transfer the command from Sexton to Cardinale.
“I wouldn’t want it any other way, Chuck,” Cucolo said.
Cucolo’s own change-of-command ceremony is scheduled for April 15. The general’s next assignment has not yet been announced, according to Fort Stewart public affairs.
Cucolo’s successor is Brig. Gen. Robert B. Abrams, who currently serves as his special assistant. Abrams has been nominated for appointment to the rank of major general, according to a Department of Defense advisory. Abrams most recently served as commanding general for the National Training Center and Fort Irwin, at Fort Irwin, Calif.
“This outfit has a personality,” Cucolo told those assembled. The general said Spartan soldiers are able to police themselves and adhere to strict discipline.
“And they like to fight,” he added.
Cucolo said Sexton was willing to “speak frankly,” especially if a situation adversely impacted his soldiers and their mission. He characterized Sexton as “a professor of military history” and a “grumpy uncle who makes Thanksgiving dinner interesting” because of his surprising grasp of various subjects from sports to American culture.
The general also praised Melody Sexton for helping create “fiercely independent” Spartan families during the deployment and for supporting his wife, Ginger, in her efforts to fortify 3rd ID spouses and dependents.
Cucolo also took note of incoming Spartan commander Cardinale, who he said will “build on Spartan tradition” and whose family is “another example of selfless service.” Cardinale’s previous assignment was as the commander of the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo.
The 2nd Brigade deployed for a year to northern Iraq in September 2009 and returned last fall. The brigade was the only 3rd ID unit to serve in the south, central and northern regions of Iraq, according to Fort Stewart’s website. The unit began its tour in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and ended it in support of Operation New Dawn, which began Sept. 1, 2010. The Spartans were in Mosul when Iraq held democratic elections to form its new government March 7, 2010.
Sexton said his success leading the brigade was measured not by medals but by the “preservation of life.” He said during the deployment, the 2nd Brigade did not lose a single soldier to accident or suicide.
“Not everyone comes back broken,” Sexton said.