The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) "Raptor" Brigade, 7th Infantry Division, cased its colors before their scheduled deployment to Afghanistan at the Evergreen Theater on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, March 10, in front of hundreds.
The "Raptor" Brigade is set to deploy to Afghanistan for around eight months with 800 soldiers as part of a routine rotation of forces in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
"Lt. Col. Buck Sarrette will be commanding what we are calling the "Raptor Ready Reserve," said the public affairs officer for the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, Capt. Brian Harris. "The idea is that all soldiers will remain deployable in the event that our numbers change or replacements are needed."
"We employ AH-64E Apache, UH-60M Black Hawk, and CH-47 Chinook helicopters," said Harris. "The Echo model Apache is the Army's latest version of that powerful aviation asset, and over the last 12-18 months, we have trained hard in exercises of various size, duration and location to ensure we are prepared for the mission we have in front of us."
The brigade hasn't just trained locally either.
Our final major training exercise was called "Raptor Fury" and took us to Orchard Combat Training Center, Idaho, where we conducted various gunnery qualification, high-altitude mountainous environment training and a host of other readiness building activities.
The extensive amount of preparation, planning and overall hard work put in by the servicemembers is evident from their commander as well.
"The soldiers of the ‘Raptor' Brigade have worked very hard to build readiness over the last year, and I am extremely confident in their ability to accomplish our upcoming mission," said Col. William A. Ryan, 16th CAB commander. "We employ some of the Army's most advanced aviation technology, but it is our tremendous team of Army professionals that will ensure mission success."
The 16th CAB, led by Ryan and Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Brock, will uncase the brigade's colors in theater (Afghanistan) once they've officially taken over the mission from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, in early April.
These typical casing ceremonies are an important symbolism of pride within a unit for not only the deploying servicemembers but for military tradition as a whole.
"For a military unit, these ceremonies recognize the history and lineage of our units and allow us to make a symbolic switch from garrison to combat operations," said Harris. "Uncasing the colors once we arrive in Afghanistan is the way we officially mark our assumption of our mission there."
Of course, even before the mission overseas begins, the servicemembers' families are already a focal point for support.
"The hard work this brigade has done over the past 12-18 months has prepared it for its mission, but none of it would be possible without the tremendous support and sacrifice of the ‘Raptor' Brigade families," added Harris. "We look forward to providing world-class aviation support as part of Operation Freedom's Sentinel."