News: 16th CAB Cases Colors, Prepares for Movement
Story by Spc. Reese Von Rogatsz
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade cased its colors in preparation for a brigade headquarters movement to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., in a June 15 ceremony here on historic Ladd Army Airfield.
In support of the Army's transformation requirements, the 16th CAB will be split-based and established at JBLM and Fort Wainwright using existing aviation units not currently assigned to a combat aviation brigade. The split-based concept is not new.
"What is unique, however, is that we split major commands," said Lt. Col. John Polhamus, deputy commanding officer, 16th CAB.
"We will not just be geographically separated," he continued, "our subordinate battalion-sized units will fall under two distinct commands, USARPAC and FORSCOM."
A CAB consists of approximately 113-115 helicopters including combat, reconnaissance and logistics support aircraft, 600 wheeled vehicles, and 2,700 soldiers organized into five battalions and a headquarters company.
The headquarters and four battalions will be located at JBLM, which currently has no CAB. There are nine brigades, three being Stryker brigades and other major subordinate commands totaling more than 40,000 Soldiers and Airmen. The addition of a CAB is necessary to support mission, training and operations for units assigned to the base.
1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment and 6th Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment and a command and control element will remain at Fort Wainwright.
"Alaska has been hugely supportive of the military, and aviation specifically," Polhamus said. "Our aviation capacity and capability will not be diminished despite of the fact that the flag is going away. Our support to the local community remains true."
"Across the Army, we try to become more efficient and effective in our formations," said Robert Werthman, commander, 16th CAB. "We became the twelfth active aviation brigade in order to take the pressure off the other 11 CABs which have been constantly going to and from the fight these past 10 years."
Aviation is one of the most sought after combat multipliers on the battlefield and is the most heavily deployed and utilized, currently on 12-month deployments after every one year at home. The Army's goal is to give active-duty soldiers two years at home for every year they're deployed.
Standing up the CAB at JBLM with its expansive maneuver area at Yakima Training Center, existing airfields, modernized ranges and infrastructure will maximize air-ground integration training in accordance with Army doctrine and effectively prepare units for operational deployments abroad.
"Our job is to train and to fight, to get ready to go downrange as one brigade - which we plan on doing in the near future," said Werthman.
The genesis of the 16th CAB is rooted in the "Miracle of 49", the term former U. S. Army Alaska commander Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Layfield used with regard to Task Force 49 overcoming perhaps its most significant challenge since it formally came to exist at Fort Wainwright in 2006.
According to Polhamus, TF 49 was initially created as a small, non-deployable organization to provide aviation oversight to two battalion commands: 1-52nd General Support Aviation Battalion which arrived from Korea and absorbed 4-123rd Aviation, and 6-17th Cavalry which came here from Hawaii.
Shortly thereafter came about a need for another brigade-level headquarters in Iraq. The Army elected to change the structure of TF 49 and make it deployable, which they did about 60 days after notification.
Col. Chandler "Skip" Sherrel took command July 2007, in September they were notified, in November the headquarters deployed and commanded two combat brigades, first at Joint Base Balad and then Baghdad International Airport. Here, the unit was credited with helping win the battles for Sadr City and Basra.
As related by Col. Edward Daly, former USARAK deputy commander, "The Army called Col. Sherrell and said, 'We are going to expect the impossible out of you. We want you to stand up a brigade that's going to go to combat. The people you are going to combat with, you don't know yet. The equipment you are going to train with, you haven't see yet, but you have 60 days to make this happen; don't drop that ball.'"
The headquarters proved more than equal to the task and Col. Sherrell affixed the Meritorius Unit Commendation streamer to the TF 49 colors, earned during the headquarters deployment.
"I was here when they came up with the name 'Task Force 49'," said Polhamus. "They didn't know what they were going to call it. Things were very austere in the beginning, TF 49 was three people. Someone came up with 'Task Force 49' - Alaska being the 49th state - and it became official. Once they deployed and showed their merit, that's where the whole notion of creating the twelfth active combat aviation brigade came from."
On October 16, 2009, headquarters and headquarters company of Task Force 49 was re-designated headquarters and headquarters company 16th CAB.
The brigade's distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for the 16th Combat Aviation Group. The unit was activated at Marble Mountain, Danang in the northernmost part of South Vietnam on January 23, 1968, just one week before the Tet offensive. The 16th Group was truly "Born in Battle".
The formation of the 16th CAG added a major subordinate command to I Corps which was headquartered near the DMZ.
Today, I Corps is headquartered at JBLM, where the colors are expected to be uncased Aug. 1.