More than 1,050 soldiers stood on Sledgehammer Field Wednesday as the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment Task Force was activated at Fort Benning.
The task force, made up of selected soldiers from the six inactivated battalions that formed the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, is now called the Black Lions, said commander Lt. Col. Fred W. Tanner. The battalion is the first of two light infantry units that will be formed before the end of next year as part of the Army's plan to reduce its force to 450,000 from 570,000 soldiers.
About the size of a battalion and a half, the task force is what the Army could afford, said Col. Michael J. Simmering, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division headquarters on Kelley Hill.
"The Army goes through this constant struggle to balance readiness, modernization and personnel," Simmering said. "Rather than inactivate an entire brigade at Fort Ben
ning, what the Army chose to do is leave behind a task force of 1,053 soldiers. It's what we could afford at the time as a nation."
Simmering said the task force is a mix of infantry squads, engineers, cavalry scouts, artillery and support personnel. The 2:15 p.m. ceremony came hours after the 11th Engineer Battalion became the sixth and last group to inactivate.
While the task force is part of the 3rd Infantry Division, Simmering still has a job until April when most of the moving of personnel and equipment will be completed.
"From there, the task force will be a standalone piece left alone when the brigade finally goes away," he said.
The 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment dates to June 1901 when it was formed at Vancouver Barracks, Wash. The battalion was heavily involved in the Philippine Insurrection. During World War I, it was assigned to the 1st Expeditionary Division to become the first American combat unit on European soil at St. Nazair, France.
The battalion landed on Utah Beach on July 4, 1944, during World War II.
It captured more than 115,000 prisoners and received three presidential Unit Citations.
After some inactivations, the battalion took part in the Cold War in West Germany in 1963. Two years later, the 1st and 2nd Battalions deployed to Vietnam where they served almost five years.
The battalion was inactivated in 1983 at Fort Riley, Kan., but was redesignated in October 2005, and its headquarters was inactivated more than a month later at Fort Jackson, S.C. The battalion was reactivated in January 2006 as the 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment as part of the Army's transformation toward a modular force.
Retired Lt. Col. Jeff Harvey came from Florida to watch the activation of the Black Lions at Fort Benning.
"If I didn't feel strongly, I wouldn't be here," said Harvey, who served two tours in Vietnam with the battalion. "The Black Lions are a very historic unit. They go back to World War I with the 1st Division."
Harvey brought a patch of the battalion and a magazine featuring the battalion to present to Tanner, the commander.