By Army Spc. Megan Burnham
Arkansas National Guard
BAGHDAD (12/02/08) - The 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team today handed over the ‘keys’ to Victory Base Complex in Baghdad, Iraq, to their neighbors to the west back home, Texas—the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
For well over 200 days, the 39th ICBT maintained security at Victory where 70,000 people either work or live in.
And while the full complement of approximately 3,200-plus Soldiers with the 56th only arrived two weeks earlier, these two brigades are no strangers to one another. In fact, the 56th visited Arkansas while the ‘Bowie Brigade’ was ‘training in their own backyard’ and even used Arkansas’ backyard—Fort Chaffee Training Maneuver Center in Fort Smith—to conduct part of their pre-mobilization training.
The 56th went on to finish up their pre-mobilization training at Fort Stewart in Savannah, Ga., whereas the 39th went to Camp Shelby, Miss., where they will return for the demobilization process.
The Texas brigade, commonly referred to as the ‘Arrowhead Brigade,’ began coordination with Arkansas in October 2007 while the 39th Brigade was conducting their pre-mobilization training at Fort Chaffee. The 39th commander—Col. Kendall Penn—invited his western neighbor to Chaffee to share ideas and thoughts on how the in-state pre-mobilization training was going.
At the time, Arkansas was in the national spotlight as they were the first state to conduct training of this magnitude inside their borders in preparation for an overseas deployment. The 56th had just learned they would replace the 39th Brigade one year down the road in December 2008, so they wanted to benefit from Penn’s success in preparing his troops for war.
“There can be no doubt that our footing as we take over and assume this mission is strong,” said Col. Lee Henry, 56th IBCT commander, at the hand-over ceremony. “Yet, that wouldn’t have been as smooth a transition if it hadn’t been for the great work that the ‘Bowie Team’ has done and for just reaching across the fence and sharing with a neighbor.”
As part of the ceremony, Penn and Command Sgt. Maj. Steven Veazey marched in unison to the awaiting colors—American flag and the Bowie flag. The Bowie flag was lowered in order that Penn might roll it up and prepare it for the casing of the colors, which would be done by Veazey. Once rolled up, Veazey took his cue and placed the green covering over the flag indicating that Penn’s brigade had just relinquished command to the 56th IBCT.
Only 227 days ago, these two Soldiers were in this very spot taking over command from the Massachusetts Army National Guard.
Speaking to the large crowd gathered, Henry said, “The ‘Arrowhead Brigade’ is absolutely on the ground and ready to follow through with this mission.
The mission that Henry inherits from Penn is dynamic: It has many moving parts and is a 24-hour operation focused on protecting the largest base camp in Iraq. It includes manning guard towers, entry control points as well as controlling the outside battle space in order to defend the Victory Base Complex.
Additionally, the mission involves civil military operations in which Soldiers work with local Iraqi citizens to improve quality of life. This can range from providing micro-grants in order to start small businesses as well as other opportunities to improve the economy to providing veterinarian services.