News: Fort Carson's 'Wheels of Distinction' roll home
Story by Staff Sgt. Ian M. Terry
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – The soldiers of Fort Carson's 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, wrapped up a yearlong deployment and welcomed the 129th CSSB, of Fort Campbell, Ky., during a transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Oct. 31.
The 68th “Stagecoach” battalion handed over battle-space responsibilities to the 129th and enjoyed a “job well done” from the 43rd.
The 68th began their mission of providing logistical support and tactical sustainment to warfighters across Afghanistan under the 82nd Sustainment Brigade, from Fort Bragg, N.C., one year ago.
Initially based out of Bagram Air Field, the 68th later relocated south to Camp Leatherneck to fall under the 43rd upon the brigade's arrival in the country. The 43rd is the 68th's higher headquarters on Fort Carson.
During the Stagecoach’s deployment, their soldiers received 15 Purple Heart medals and 161 combat action badges for their efforts across the battalion's battle space.
The 68th spent their last several months in Afghanistan supporting increasingly demanding missions due to the troop surge through the summer. Despite the demands placed on the battalion, Col. Edward M. Daly, commander, 43rd SB, said the 68th executed their mission flawlessly.
“You have truly made a lasting impression and impact on operations,” said Daly. “Your efforts and courage and selfless service are absolutely phenomenal and tremendously appreciated by all who have enjoyed your support.”
Col. Thomas A. Rivard, the 68th CSSB commander, expressed great pride in the professionalism and mission-first attitude his staff and soldiers steadfastly exhibited during their deployment.
“OK, soldiers, bottom line up front,” said Rivard. “This is the best deployment I’ve ever been a part of. I am proud of each of you. We focused on the mission; we took care of soldiers.”
Rivard said the tight relationship the 68th and the 43rd enjoy from serving side-by-side on Fort Carson gave the battalion significant confidence in the support they received from the brigade to successfully complete any mission with which it was tasked.
“In March, we made the final transition to our home station higher headquarters of the 43rd Sustainment Brigade Rough Riders,” said Rivard. “In so doing, we re-established staff and command processes that worked so well at Fort Carson.”
Having first-hand knowledge of the battalion's mission capability and Soldier readiness was a huge factor in enabling the 68th to serve as a fire-and-forget battalion, said Daly. The phrase originates from a type of missile system which requires no further guidance after launch and connotes an entity capable of successfully executing a mission with minimal supervision.
“You have operated in a tough counter-insurgency environment,” said Daly. “An environment that spans over 95,000 square miles, providing command and control for combat logistics convoys that have driven over one million miles to deliver more than 75,000 short-tons of cargo dozens of forward operating bases supported by the Rough Riders.
“Your professionalism ... is quite frankly the best I have ever seen,” said Daly.
Initially constituted in 1936, the Stagecoach battalion has a long and proud tradition of service dating back to World War II. This service includes three tours during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and five deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This is the battalion’s first deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and their second tour since being officially redesignated as a combat sustainment support battalion in 2006.
Rivard shared some final words with the soldiers of his battalion before officially handing the reins to the 129th CSSB.
"Our soldiers set high standards in this theater," said Rivard, "and it is a testament to your leadership and your discipline. All of you represented the 68th and the 43rd Sustainment Brigade with your stewardship every day.
"And we can't ever talk about our deployment without talking about the U.S. Marine Corps," Rivard continued. "The 68th's mission of support is largely centered around the [Marine Expeditionary Force]. I have immensely enjoyed this joint environment and the challenges that it presented … This is Stagecoach 6, signing off the net.”
Following the transfer of authority ceremony, the soldiers of the 68th CSSB gathered together as Command Sgt. Maj. Colvin Bennett, 68th CSSB command sergeant major, shared some heartfelt words of his own.
“Being in charge of such an outstanding group of non-commissioned officers has made this time, this deployment.” After a brief moment of speechlessness, Bennett said “This is the only job in the world that can make a grown man cry. And if you guys don’t understand that, wait until you get where I am, and you’ll see. You’ll see the love that you have for your soldiers.
“I lead with my heart,” Bennett concluded. “I am one of the proudest command sergeants major in the United States Army, and all of this is because of you.”