By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald
Former 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment trooper Thomas Shea can’t believe Hollywood hasn’t made a movie about the regiment yet.
“Telling the story of the regiment is like a review of American history,” Shea said following a ceremony that marked the historic conversion of the last armored cavalry regiment in the Army to the 3 U.S. Cavalry last week on Cooper Field. “It’s probably the most unique regiment in the whole Army.”
Shea, 77, who served with the regiment in occupied Germany from 1955-57, was one of many unit veterans who attended the ceremony on Nov. 16 to witness latest transformation in the regiment’s 165-year history.
The Mounted Riflemen trace their roots to 1846 and participated in the Mexican-American War, Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War I, when it operated as the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. The regiment became mechanized during World War II and adopted the “armored” portion of its name shortly after.
The 3rd Armored Cavalry stood guard against the Soviet threat in Germany in the 1960s and participated in the Gulf War and peacekeeping operations in Bosnia before the 9/11 era. The 3rd Armored Cavalry deployed has four times to Iraq since 2003, three times in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and once as the first unit to enter the country during Operation New Dawn.
In accordance with the Army’s long-standing transformation plan to address post-Cold War era threats, the unit is on its way to becoming a infantry-centric Stryker unit.
Horse, tank or Stryker, the “grit and tenacity of the Brave Rifle troopers” will live on, outgoing regimental commander Col. Reginald E. Allen told the crowd during the concurrent change of command ceremony.
“I’d be lying if I told you there was uniformity of thought within the regiment, armor community, the Army or its leaders about this change,” said the 73rd regimental commander. “(But) I know that the flexibility and adaptability of this regiment’s greatest weapon, the Mounted Riflemen, will carry the 3rd U.S. Cavalry boldly into the battlefields of tomorrow.”
Allen led the regiment during its fourth and final deployment to Iraq in 2010. Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., III Corps and Fort Hood commander, congratulated the regiment for its contributions in Iraq, which “set conditions for U.S. troops to leave the country this year.”
The regiment was particularly suited to the mission due to its adaptability, Campbell said, a trait that ensures “the legacy of the 3rd Armored Cavalry doesn’t disappear today.”
Allen, who will attend the Higher Command and Staff Course in the United Kingdom, relinquished his command to Col. John B. Richardson.
The incoming commander led 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division of Fort Riley, Kan., before attending Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government as a national security fellow.
Richardson said he was proud to join the regiment at such a historic time and that its legacy would live on through the transition. He called the new 3rd Cavalry “one of the most battle-tested outfits in the U.S. Army” and “the backbone of (nearly) every battle campaign, from start to finish.”
Although the regiment isn’t experiencing a net gain or loss of troopers with the transition, its organizational structure changed. Its 1st, 2nd, 3rd and support squadrons will remain as they are, but the regiment reacquired a 4th squadron, “Longknife,” which is now a reconnaissance unit. The regiment’s field artillery assets also were consolidated into a “fires” squadron.
The ceremony also marked a transfer of responsibility from 18th Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. Jonathan J. Hunt, who deployed with the unit for three of its four tours to Iraq, to a new senior noncommissioned officer.
Hunt, whom Allen affectionately called “my brother from another mother,” is retiring from the Army. He said he was “confident” in the regiment’s ability to transition smoothly.
Change is in the cavalry’s genes, he said. “It’s exciting. We pride ourselves on adaptability and flexibility.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Akuna, the regiment’s incoming senior noncommissioned officer, said he was honored to help lead the 3rd Cavalry back to its mounted roots while maintaining its legacy.
“It’s a new steed, the Stryker platform,” Akuna said, adding he’d already been “touched” by the history of the 3rd Armored Cavalry, “the professionalism of the troopers, the esprit de corps that they’ve maintained for 165 years.”
The regiment is due to receive its first Stryker vehicles in late winter or early spring.
Deputy regimental commanding officer Lt. Col. Bryan Radliff, one of the few senior officers staying with the regiment through the transition, said the next few months will involve lots of work. “We’re going to be very busy.”
But, he said, with change comes the opportunity build “a new team from scratch. It’s challenging to face that change, but it’s actually a phenomenal time to be here.”
Allen’s wife, Ingrid, said she advised unit spouses to stay informed about the transformation in the coming months, but was confident that 3rd Cavalry families possessed the same flexibility as their troopers.
“Our families learn adaptability and acclimation like no other,” she said.