BAUMHOLDER, Germany — In a bittersweet day for the soldiers of the 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, the unit uncased its colors Wednesday for the last time at Baumholder, as it prepares to inactivate and leave Germany.
At a morning ceremony, with sun streaming through the windows in the Hall of Champions, the brigade unfurled its flag while marking the end of a tough 12-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Later in the day, soldiers and family members moved outdoors to remember the nine soldiers killed during the deployment. Under skies that had clouded over, a stone memorial engraved with the soldiers’ names was unveiled: Pfc. Jacob R. Crebessa, Sgt. 1st Class Alvin A. Boatwright, Staff Sgt. Alan L. Snyder, Staff Sgt. Edward F. Dixon III, Spc. Tyler R. Kreinz, Staff Sgt. Michael S. Lammerts, Staff Sgt. Scott H. Burgess, Staff Sgt. Jose Caraballo Pietri and Capt. Michael W. Newton.
“It’s an important day, to say thanks to the soldiers, to say thanks to the families and to honor those nine soldiers who lost their lives,” said Col. Patrick Matlock, the brigade commander.
During the ceremony, two soldiers were presented with awards for heroic deeds during the brigade's deployment: Sgt. Joseph A. Johnson received the Bronze Star Medal with "V" device, and Spec. Nicholas A. Moody was given the Soldiers Medal.
The brigade — one of two combat brigades that will depart Germany as part of a larger military restructuring — is scheduled to inactivate on Oct. 15, Matlock said.
Though the brigade has been at Baumholder only since July 2009, when it was reflagged from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder has deployed troops to combat for at least the last 25 years, “from Desert Storm to Bosnia, to Kosovo, to Iraq three times, to Afghanistan,” Matlock said.
“Out of this community, seven deployments over 25 years, that’s a big deal,” he said. It’s likely that there will never be a combat brigade to deploy again from Baumholder, he said.
Matlock said soldiers are starting to leave Germany now. Permanent change-of-station moves will pick up next month and be “full speed ahead by September,” he said.
Though the official inactivation date is Oct. 15, the 4,600-strong unit is considering holding a ceremony to mark its departure sometime in June, before most soldiers and families are out of Baumholder, Matlock said.
Most soldiers are heading back to the States where they will be assigned to new units, officials said. A few are attempting to get assigned to other units in Europe, while some will stay at Baumholder, said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Anthony Grinston, the brigade’s command sergeant major.
Those remaining at Baumholder have been asked to support new units expected to be reassigned to Baumholder, Grinston said.
Those units, likely coming from other Army bases in Germany, include a medical battalion headquarters, a transportation company and an explosive ordnance company, said Lt. Col. Sam McAdoo, U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder commander.
After the reshuffling, it’s expected that Baumholder will support about 2,000 to 2,500 soldiers, about half the number it does now, McAdoo said.
Despite the population drop, the garrison will endure, he said, and plans to offer soldiers and their families the same essential services it does now, from child care to street repairs, he said. However, he added, the number of facilities offering those services may be scaled back, though details are still being worked out.
“Nothing will change to the customer,” he said.
Matlock said Baumholder was a good place from which to prepare troops to deploy to combat.
“It has a great training area … a cohesive community, great supporting organizations,” he said. “It’s going to be a real shame to lose that.”
This last deployment, he said, “was certainly among the best.”
Some of the brigade’s soldiers worked with Afghan army trainers, teaching them how to train themselves, “work we would equate to drill sergeants,” Matlock said. Brigade soldiers took over the mission from another battalion and by the end of their deployment, they “had turned it over completely to the Afghans.”