First Lt. Kevin Skindell
The 174th Infantry Brigade cased its colors for official movement to Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, N.J., during a ceremony Friday at Fort Drum.
The ceremony, overseen by Maj. Gen. Kevin Wendel, commander, First Army Division East, marked the final farewell and new beginning for a brigade.
“Change is a constant for us in the Army,” Wendel said. “Thank you for all of your hard work training mobilizing units for deployment.”
Soldiers of 174th Infantry Bri-gade have spent the majority of the last five years traveling across the country to train deploying ser-vice members.
In 2007, the brigade began its road trip here, and at then Fort Dix, N.J., spending six months alongside the 72nd Field Artillery Brigade. During summer surges of service members slated for ongoing contingency operations, First Army tasked the unit to augment sister brigades and get troops trained and validated for missions overseas.
It was soon on to Fort Bragg, N.C., and then to Fort McCoy, Wis., the following summer. Later that year, the brigade went to Camp Shelby, Miss., to train more than 5,000 Soldiers of the 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, trailing the unit to Fort Irwin, Calif., for an exercise at the National Training Center, and back out to the East Coast for the unit’s wheels up to Iraq.
The First Army used to call the 174th Infantry Brigade an “away brigade,” but today its duty station is reclaimed.
“I am proud to say that today the brigade heads home,” said Wendel, alluding to the fact that on Aug. 5, 1917, the brigade was first constituted at then Camp Dix.
Col. Chipper Lewis, 174th Infantry Brigade commander, followed the general’s remarks by speaking highly of the 42 years the brigade spent here.
“We’ve enjoyed our stay, and the support we’ve received at (Fort) Drum with the 10th Mountain Division,” Lewis said. “We will miss it here.”
Officially, May 20 marks the day the 174 Infantry Brigade leaves Fort Drum, but the transition really began back in the summer of 2007.
The evening before the casing, Lewis personified the upcoming change by saying goodbye and honoring five Department of the Army civilians who served with the 174th during its tenure here.
“With the move, we leave behind some very dear co-workers and friends,” Lewis said.
The four friends who stayed behind were Albert Muhs, and James Lawlor, who each received the Superior Civilian Service Award; James Powell and Sandra Caputo, who each received the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service. The lone friend who made the trip and serves as the command team management support assistant is Gina Little, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Jamie Little, 3rd Battalion, 314th Regiment, who also received the Commander’s Award for Civilian Service.
After the casing ceremony, members of the brigade said a much more solemn goodbye during a ceremony at Memorial Park. Four 174th Infantry Brigade Soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Benson, Sgt. 1st Class Casey E. Howe, Master Sgt. Tulsa Tuliau and Lt. Col. Leon James were honored with a memorial inscribed with words from English classicist John Maxwell Edmonds: “When you go home, tell them of us and say, ‘For your tomorrows, these gave their today.”
The 174th and the 72nd underwent transformation last year. Many Soldiers already have made the physical move to Joint Base M-D-L and have been conducting post mobilization training in support of ongoing contingency operations since 2010.
The brigade’s colors are set to be uncased in conjunction with the 174th change of command ceremony July 19 in New Jersey.
(Skindell serves as public affairs training officer for 174th Infantry Brigade).