82nd Airborne Passes Authority to 81st Brigade Combat Team

Story by Spc. Kathryn Spurrell
81st Public Affairs

On April 18, the 81st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) accepted authority for the defense of Anaconda from the 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division during a Transfer of Authority ceremony here.

In the weeks since their arrival at LSA Anaconda, the 81st BCT has been conducting a Relief in Place with the 82nd Airborne Division. The Transfer of Authority marked the successful completion of the relief.

The 82nd Airborne Division, from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has supported Operation Iraqi Freedom II since January. Comprised mostly of the 3rd Battalion "Blue Devils", 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, the Devils spent their time at Anaconda performing base defense operations, which included conducting thousands of patrols, and manning guard towers and entry control points. In addition, the Devils carried out numerous raids which resulted in the seizure of weapons now no longer available for use against coalition forces. The 82nd soldiers are currently in the process of redeploying back to North Carolina.

Numerous guests attended the Transfer of Authority ceremony to officially recognize the conveyance of responsibility. Soldiers representing the 81st BCT, the 82nd Airborne, and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps (ICDC) stood in formation as Brig. Gen. Oscar Hilman, 81st BCT commander, accepted the task of security from Col. Patrick Donahue II, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade.

Part of the ceremony included, Hilman and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Barr uncasing the 81st BCT's colors as a symbol of acceptance of the transferred authority. Col. (P) James Chambers, commander of the 13th Corps Support Command which provides logistical support to units throughout Iraq, spoke at the ceremony. "I am proud of the spirit of cooperation between the 82nd Airborne and the 81st BCT," said Chambers. LSA Anaconda's security allows the units based here to focus on their mission, said Chambers. "In short, force protection here enables theater-wide mission accomplishment."

Donahue, commander of 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, praised the 81st BCT's motivation and enthusiasm. "I know I am leaving this area of responsibility in good hands," he said. Donahue reiterated the 81st BCT's motto, "First in War, First in Peace," and stated that the 81st BCT's civilian background would aid them in their training and interactions with the citizen-soldiers of the ICDC.

Hilman accepted the transfer with praise for the 82nd's accomplishments and effectiveness. "Our mission remains the same as the 82nd Airborne's," said Hilman. "We will maintain the same high standards of excellence." He also thanked the 82nd Airborne for their hospitality during the transition period and said he was pleased with the unit's willingness to share information about the keys to success in maintaining a safe and secure environment in the district of Balad.

"The 82nd Devil Brigade is truly a great organization. Their assertiveness, dedication to duty, and selfless service has contributed immensely to the security of LSA Anaconda," Hilman said. "We will continue the great efforts and initiatives set by the 82nd with training, supporting, and integrating the ICDC in all of our operations."

LSA Anaconda was not the only area where military command was transferred to 81st BCT elements. In similar ceremonies near Baghdad on April 17, both the 1-303rd Armor Battalion, 1-185th Armor Battalion, and the 1-161 Infantry Battalion, accepted authority from out-going units.

With attached elements from California and Minnesota, the Brigade's movement to Iraq constitutes the largest deployment of the Washington State National Guard soldiers since World War II.

The 81st BCT has reported duty-ready to take on its mission of security and support operations. Armed with outstanding morale and motivation, 81st soldiers continue working toward the goal of a safe and democratic Iraq in fulfillment of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

Set against its background of blue and red, the Raven on the 81st Brigade Combat Team's flag now flies proudly over the Logistical Support Area Anaconda. As he summed up the Transfer of Authority, Col. Chambers said, "The transition is complete. Beyond a difference in the patch on the shoulders, it will be business as usual."


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