The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division held a 3rd Brigade Memorial Ceremony Thursday on Kelley Hill in honor of Brigade soldiers who have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Soldiers representing the six battalions of the 3rd Brigade, and family members of the 75 fallen Sledgehammer soldiers attended the morning ceremony at the Fallen Heroes Memorial. Their names, plus one civilian and two Georgian soldiers with the Allied Forces, were read aloud following a wreath laying at the foot of the memorial.
"We have vowed to protect our families and our nation at all costs," said brigade commander Col. Johnnie L. Johnson, Jr.
The brigade has deployed to Iraq four times since 2003 for a total of 51 months. In March 2003, the brigade lead the 3rd Infantry Division's advance into Baghdad. In January 2005, the Sledgehammer soldiers deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom III, and assisted in the constitutional elections that fall. They again deployed for 15 months in 2007 as part of the "Surge Force," and established Forward Operating Base Hammer in the Mada'in Qada, which became home to about 1.25 million Iraqi citizens. In October 2009, the 3rd HBCT was re-designated the 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade and provided advise and assist operations in support of the Iraqi military, police and the provincial reconstruction teams lead by the U.S. State Department.
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Following the service, casing ceremonies were held to case the Brigade colors in preparation for the 3rd Brigade deployment to Kuwait next month. About one-half of the Brigade, approximately 2,000 soldiers, will train and work with regional partner nations in the U.S. Central Command Area of Operations, according to Maj. Ellis Gales, 3rd HBCT public affair officer. "Our presence contributes to regional security." Maj. Ellis said.