News: Cottonbalers reintegrate, celebrate successful deployment
Story by Sgt. Bob Yarbrough
SAVANNAH, Ga. – Soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, gathered for a ball at the Riverside Marriott in Savannah, Ga., Jan. 18, 2014.
This year's Cottonbaler winter ball was more than just a gathering to honor their battalion's illustrious history, but also to mark the end of a successful deployment, reintegrating with families and sharing a night with brothers in arms.
“It was important because we were celebrating a successful deployment,” said 1st Lt. Kyle Salik, an infantry officer with 3-7 In. Regt., who led the coordination and planning effort for this year’s ball. “We’re not only celebrating the accomplishments of the deployed soldiers, but the home detachment as well. It was some well deserved fun.”
The evening began on a somber note, with Capt. John Gresham, the narrator and emcee for the night, offering a moment of silence followed by the names of each soldier from the battalion lost since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom through Operation Enduring Freedom Afghanistan, and then moved on to some more enjoyable history. Cottonbaler punch was mixed and served, each of the ingredients signifying the battalion’s participation in a previous armed conflict.
Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher K. Greca, command sergeant major of U.S. Army Forces Command, and a close personal friend and mentor to Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey R. Dillingham, command sergeant major of 3-7 Inf. Regt., was in attendance as the guest speaker for the evening. Greca shared many of his experiences from his 28 year career and made it clear that friends and family are an instrumental part of keeping Soldiers motivated.
Greca spoke about the importance of staying strong both as a unit, and also as a family. “Resiliency is not only built of individuals,” he said. “It’s built off the foundation of the team, the squad, the platoon, the company, the identity. When you come back here to the states, don’t fracture. That team has to be as strong and as powerful here in the states as it is while deployed.”
The evening was not entirely filled with somber moments, reminiscing, and speeches, however. After the formal portion of the evening and dinner, soldiers and loved ones took to the dance floor.
“Heroes are never more than an arm’s length away,” added Greca. “Forty or fifty years from now, you’re going to be sitting with your children or grandchildren and reminiscing about these moments.”