Marking the completion of preparations for their six-month deployment to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division cased their unit colors at a Dec. 3 ceremony at Marshall Army Airfield.
Four of the "Vanguard" Battalion's six companies were present at the ceremony; as two companies have already departed to set the conditions for successful integration of the battalion later this month. The battalion will replace its sister combined-arms battalion – the 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment – which has been conducting operations within the Horn of Africa since its deployment earlier this year.
"Many of you have already demonstrated your selfless service in places like Iraq and Afghanistan," said Col. Jeffery Broadwater, commander, 2nd ABCT, to the assembled Soldiers. "This time, your mission is in Africa, and you have proudly accepted the challenge of being the first regionally-aligned force to build mutually beneficial relationships to prevent larger future deployments of our nation's most precious resource – its sons and daughters."
While deployed, the battalion will serve as a rapid-reaction force in the region. Additionally, it will work with host nation security forces to build their capacity and enhance interoperability.
The battalion has quickly become adept with its upcoming mission since becoming regionally aligned this past spring. It has previously sent contingents to work with the armed forces of nations, like South Africa, Niger and Burundi, in a wide range of missions.
"The battalion will remain brave and responsible. Training partner nation militaries and police to the best of our ability, while staying on point for the nation to build a better team of teams with our African partners," said Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee Magee, commander, 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. "Doing so will allow African nations to solve African problems."
This will be the second time in the battalion's history it has operated on the African continent. The 18th Inf. Regt. played a major role in the North African campaigns of 1942 to 1943, as U.S. forces drove German, Italian and Vichy French forces from Tunisia.
"Throughout the North African Campaign, the battalion was a critical team player, enabling U.S. and allied operations that led to victory over the vaunted Afrika Korps," Magee said. "In our deployment to Djibouti, we will once again epitomize teamwork as we partner with sister (military) services, NATO allies and partner nations throughout the Horn of Africa."
In preparation for this deployment the battalion has continually trained while completing a decisive-action rotation last March at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, Calif.
"Over the past year, (1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt.) has executed numerous robust homestation training events focusing on traditional shoot, move and communications warfighting skills, while supporting multiple missions in Africa," Broadwater said. "When you combine the training and experience in Africa, you can tell the Vanguards are ready for any mission they will encounter while deployed."