New era for the 81st Stryker Brigade
Col. Bryan Grenon, 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team commander and Command Sgt. Maj. Alfonso Cadena, 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team Command Sergeant Major, uncase the brigade's new colors during their re-patching and re-flagging ceremony on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, December 3, 2016. The exchange of brigade colors is part of the unit's official transformation from an armored brigade to a Stryker brigade. (Washington Army National Guard photo by SPC Brianne Kim)
For more than 45 years the Washington National Guard’s 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) has worn the iconic Ravens patch, officially approved for wear in May 1970. Today, they adopt the 2nd Infantry Division’s Indian Head patch and reveal the new Brigade colors symbolizing the unit’s transformation from an Armor Brigade to a Stryker Brigade.
All seven units within the 81st SBCT along with high ranking officials from Forces Command, Army National Guard, Washington National Guard and 7th Infantry Division (ID) fill the Washington National Guard’s Army Aviation Support Facility during the patch and flag-changing ceremony.
“This is a historic and proud day for the cascade rifle brigade. The re-flagging ceremony signifies one significant chapter of our history serving as an armored BCT but it solidifies our future as a Stryker brigade,” Col. Bryan Grenon, commander of the 81st SBCT, explained in his opening remarks at the ceremony, December 3, 2016.
“The whole squad is excited to be a part of the 2nd ID, it is such a historic organization but it’s kind of sad as well because the National Guard and its patches have earned a name for themselves,” said Lt. Col. John Quails, commander of the 81st SBCT’s 1-82 Cavalry Squadron stationed in Bend Oregon.
The 81st SBCT will be assigned to the 7th ID, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). The 81st SBCT and 7th ID have a great deal of shared history—serving in both World Wars, the Cold war and Operation Enduring Freedom to name a few— but this new milestone is expected to strengthen an already sturdy relationship.
Washington Army National Guard soldiers of the 81st Stryker Brigade Combat Team don the 2nd Infantry Division’s "Indianhead" patch, retiring their "Raven" patch at the unit's re-patching ceremony on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, December 3, 2016. The "Raven" patch was worn by the 81st SBCT for more than three decades after being approved for wear on May 27, 1970. (Washington Army National Guard photo by SPC Brianne Kim)
“We look forward to seeing this partnership grow and set the stage for how we will train, build readiness and ultimately fight together as one Army in the future when our country calls,” said Maj. Gen. Bret D. Daugherty, the adjutant general, Washington National Guard.
The 81st SBCT and 7th ID were paired together as part of the Army’s Associated Units program. The program was announced March 2016 in response to the Army’s force reduction, creating increased readiness across all components of the Army and further strengthening the One Army concept.
The Associated Units program focuses on amplifying the relationships between active and reserve components and building greater interoperability through training, ensuring that the Army remains a highly capable and elite fighting force.
Since the 81st SBCT’s transition to a Stryker brigade the unit will begin actively training with the 7th ID’s 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.
“One of the reasons we wanted to convert the 81st to a Stryker unit is that we believe it will allow us to have a much closer working relationship with our active duty brothers and enhance the readiness of both the National Guard and the active duty units that we will be training with,” Daugherty said.
“I’m really excited about the new patch and looking forward to the cross training we will have with active duty forces so we’re more familiar with working together,” said Sgt. Alex Maldonado, A CO 1- 161 Infantry Regiment, 81st SBCT.
Maj. Gen. Thomas S. James Jr., commander of the 7th Infantry Division, and 81st Brigade commander Col. Bryan Grenon shake hands after Grenon's brigade received the 2nd Infantry Division Indianhead patch during a patching and flagging ceremony at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Dec. 3, 2016. The 81st SBCT will now be assigned under the 7th Infantry Division at as part of the Army's associated unit program. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Matthew Sissel)
Gaining a Stryker Brigade is a tremendous benefit to not only Washington State but to Oregon and California who both host units of the 81st SBCT. Strykers will be more useful in the event of a future state or regional emergency, such as the inevitable Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake state agencies continuously plan and prepare for.
“The Strykers will have more mobility and versatility to respond to natural disasters within the state of Washington,” said Kadavy.
Grenon said the 81st SBCT is ready to conquer the many challenges associated with converting to a Stryker brigade and being restructured under a new command, adding that both units are ready to let the new structure and Associated Unit program cement their already strong partnership.
“This transition is not and will not be easy but the opportunities and the great challenges that come with the transition will make us a stronger brigade,” Grenon said.
“We have enjoyed our phenomenal relationship with the Washington, Oregon and California National Guard for years and look forward to strengthening this partnership through the Associated Unit program, we are truly One Army,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas S. James Jr., commander of the 7th ID.