To mark the 3rd Infantry Division’s first deployment to Afghanistan and fifth deployment since 2003, its Headquarters & Headquarters Battalion conducted a colors-casing ceremony Wednesday at Fort Stewart’s Woodruff Theater.
Gov. Nathan Deal, making his first visit to Stewart since becoming governor in 2010, was the guest speaker for the ceremony.
Casing a unit’s colors prior to movement to another theater of operation is a longstanding Army tradition, according to 3rd ID public affairs. In a few weeks, the Division Headquarters & Headquarters Battalion will assume command and control of Regional Command South, one of the five regional commands in Afghanistan.
“As a former Army officer, I’m indeed proud to be here,” Deal told guests, soldiers and family members. “All of us should be reminded of our great heritage as a nation. People are asking if the United States of America still has the same principles it has had throughout history. I know (the 3rd ID) will uphold those principles and give us the security to protect us here at home.”
Following the governor’s remarks, two simultaneous color-casing ceremonies took place.
As Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams, commander of 3rd ID and Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, and 3rd ID Command Sgt. Maj. Ed Watson cased the division’s colors, Lt. Col. Earl Rilington and Command Sgt. Maj. David Inglis, Division Headquarters & Headquarters Battalion, cased their battalion’s colors.
Abrams thanked the governor and other guests for attending, including Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas and Pembroke Mary Warnell, state Sens. Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, and Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, and state Reps. Al Williams, D-Midway, and Ron Stephen, R-Savannah.
Also present were Lt. Gen. Dan Allyn and Command Sgt. Maj. Isaia Vimoto, commanding general and command sergeant major of the XVIII Airborne Corps; retired Lt. Gen. William Webster; and WTOC’s Bill Cathcart and Sonny Dixon.
“We eagerly accept our nation’s call,” Abrams said, indicating other 3rd ID units will deploy in coming months. “The time has come, and the call has been loud. By January 2013, there’ll be a 3rd ID guidon in every region of Afghanistan.”
Abrams reminded guests that several 3rd ID units already were deployed to Afghanistan and Kuwait, including the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team from Fort Benning, two battalions with the 2nd HBCT, the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, as well as military police and other support units.
Describing their joint task force as a “team of teams,” he said the 3rd ID’s headquarters will be working with an alliance of forces from 50 nations. They also will be working with two U.S. Special Operations units, he said.
Abrams specifically recognized Navy Commander Job Price, commander of SEAL Team 4, as one of the ceremony’s distinguished guests and whose elite unit will be working alongside 3rd ID soldiers.
“There’s a clear transition from full counter-insurgency operations to advise-and-assist operations,” Abrams said, noting the Marne Division will be responsible for starting the drawing down of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “We will send a message that we will not tolerate extremism or terrorism.”
Calling the 3rd ID “Georgia’s division,” he talked about how the division maintains unconditional support from surrounding communities, saying he is confident their families will be taken care of while they’re deployed.
Abrams said the governor’s presence at their casing ceremony was a clear indication of the level of support the Marne Division has from Georgia’s citizens and leaders.
While speaking to members of the media, Deal said he is pleased the Marne Division calls itself Georgia’s division, noting the 3rd ID has units at Fort Stewart, Fort Benning and Hunter Army Airfield. He said he recognizes the hardships and sacrifices made not only by the soldiers, but also by their families.
“Many of these families have been through deployments before,” Deal said. “Military families are just like their soldiers — they’re resilient.”
Deal said he only had a brief chance to talk with a few soldiers but was impressed with the soldiers he met. He said he recently had spoke via teleconference with Georgia National Guardsmen already stationed in theater. Deal called the Guard and Reserve forces an important ingredient in the Army’s mission.
The 3rd ID headquarters will serve a 12-month tour in Afghanistan while leading the withdrawal of U.S. forces from that theater by 2014.