Thursday, May 15, 2008

Command Change Nears Completion

Command change nears completion
Col. Grigsby turns over keys to FOB Hammer

If all went as planned at this morning's transfer of authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base Hammer, the last segment of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team soldiers has left Iraq and will soon be heading back to Fort Benning.

"We'll be jumping on a helicopter as soon as the ceremony concludes," brigade commander Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr. said Wednesday. "We could be at home as soon as this weekend."

Grigsby has already turned over the keys to Hammer to Col. Pete White, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division.

"We've been riding in the right-hand seat the past few days," Grigsby said. "They now own the ground. I'm certain they'll do a great job."

Five of the 3rd Brigade's six battalions have already turned over the reins to their successors; the sixth was to do so immediately before the total transfer of authority.

"We're down to 38 soldiers," said Grigsby, who packed his gear Tuesday night in preparation for his departure today. He had time earlier Wednesday to brief Pentagon reporters during a conference call.

"I told them the story of my soldiers and the work they've accomplished during the past 15 months," he said.

Grigsby said he would spend his remaining hours sending out his final set of e-mails to commanders within the 3rd Infantry Division.

Then it's off to Kuwait and the long ride home.

No Army brigade has spent as many months deployed to Iraq as the 3rd, which is completing its third deployment since Iraqi Freedom I began in March 2003.

Its main responsibility this time was to prevent accelerants from coming into Baghdad through its main theater of operation, the Mada'in Qada.

"I'd say we were very successful doing that; in addition, we helped stop the criminals that were harming the good people here," he said.

The Hammer Brigade captured 43 division-level and brigade-level HVIs, or High-Value Individuals, and killed more than 160 enemy fighters.

"We have been very effective along all lines of operations," Grigsby said.

Two planeloads of soldiers are expected to arrive at Lawson Army Airfield today, one in the morning and the other in mid-afternoon. Two more flights are expected on Friday evening.

Only a handful of the brigade team will remain in Kuwait until later in the month, ensuring that all equipment is packed and shipped back to Benning.

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