‘Dragon’ Battalion begins Africa mission
Maj. Gen. Terry Ferrell, commander, CJTF – Horn of Africa, right, welcomes Soldiers with the 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt., as they took responsibility in late June at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. The “Dragon” Battalion took over from a Kentucky National Guard unit as part of the Dagger Brigade’s regional alignment with Africa. Photo by: Capt. Richard Karmann, 1ST BN., 63RD ARMOR REGT.
Story by: Capt. Richard Karmann III, 1ST BN., 63RD ARMOR REGT., 2ND ABCT
CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti – Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division conducted a transfer of authority ceremony in late June, symbolizing the beginning of their tour of duty to support Camp Lemonnier and the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa.
The first wave of Soldiers arrived more than a month ago, and, throughout June, their numbers grew dramatically as the remainder of the battalion arrived and took responsibility for the mission from the 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery Regiment, Kentucky National Guard.
"Today is the anniversary of America's 1st Infantry Division's landing in the French port of Saint-Nazaire for participation in World War I," said Lt. Col. Jason A. Wolter, commander, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt. "Some 96 years later, I have the honor of sharing with you the characteristics of another group of forward-deployed and forward-focused 1st Division Soldiers that are joining the HOA team."
The ceremony signified the "Dragon" Battalion had completed all of the tasks required to relieve the "Longrifle" Battalion, and that Wolter now has mission command.
Prior to that date, Soldiers with 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt. received on-the-job training on the multitude of tasks they would be executing during their deployment and got a glimpse of what to expect during their tenure at Camp Lemonnier. During the ceremony, Wolter briefly touched on what he said he hopes the battalion will accomplish during its deployment.
Three of the areas the battalion will be focusing on are force protection, military-to-military training with allies in the region and leader development. All of the programs are up and running.
The battalion has initiated and completed several force-protection missions. Since arriving, the battalion has started looking for ways to develop and improve the procedures already in place.
Additionally, throughout the deployment, Soldiers will have the opportunity to train with numerous partner nations. Military-to-military training is designed to share best practices and lessons learned across militaries from partner nations, which may take what they have learned home.
The Dragon Battalion has already started working with Japanese, French and Djiboutian forces. Future activities are planned for the coming months with other militaries in the region.
Being in "Africa presents a unique opportunity, where Soldiers can focus on their training objectives and building rapport with our partner nations without being distracted by the day-to-day business that comes up in garrison," said Capt. David Grindle, operations officer, 1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt.
Soldiers also will be working on Soldier skills at the individual and team levels.
Some training will focus on maintaining skills of some of the non-infantry specialties within the battalion. Medics, communications specialists, forward observers, mortar teams and sniper teams will continue to train in their specialties while they are deployed.
"To the HOA leadership and team, know that we are proud to join your ranks and with you will remain forward focused to continue the history of great accomplishments for this task force," Wolter said.