The Army’s oldest parachute infantry regiment gained a new leader this week in a traditional change of command ceremony, an event that happens about every two years in today’s modern brigade combat team.
Col. Mark L. Stock handed over the helm of the 3,500-paratrooper-strong 1st Brigade Combat Team to Col. Trevor Bredenkamp Friday, at the 82nd Airborne Division’s parade ground at Fort Bragg.
Like his predecessor, Bredenkamp was commissioned at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and worked his way up through the ranks in a career that spanned multiple combat deployments, including one as a leader of one of the brigade’s storied infantry units, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment.
While he personally knows many of the famous faces whose portraits hang from the walls within the regiment, including retired Gens. Stanley McCrystal and John Abizaid, Bredenkamp said their success speaks as much about the quality of the noncommissioned officers and paratroopers in the organization as it does the commanders.
Bredenkamp said he is inspired by paratroopers.
“No matter what rank you are, when you jump out of an airplane and you land on the ground in the middle of a drop zone in the middle of the night, you are a rifleman until you link up with your little group of paratroopers,” he said.
Bredenkamp recently served as deputy director of the Soldier for Life Program at the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army.
His immediate goals for the brigade are to generate combat power, build cohesive teams and take care of paratroopers and their Families. An important part of generating combat power for any military unit is to minimize the threat of drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, sexual harassment and barracks larceny, he said.
With the Army downsizing by 80,000 troops and its refocus with the end of two wars drawing near, the stagnant national
Following the holidays, Bredenkamps paratroopers can expect to begin individual skills and small-unit training through March and platoon and higher training through June, followed by a mission-rehearsal exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center in September, he said.
In his farewell remarks, Stock noted that in the 70 years since the 504th was created, its paratroopers have established a legacy of valor and service that has become the standard by which other units are judged.
In World War II, the 504th was instrumental to campaigns in Italy, northern France, Holland and Belgium. More recently, in the decade of conflict since 9/11, its parent organization, 1st Brigade Combat Team, has been one of the most deployed brigades in the Army.
During the siege at Anzio, the unit earned the name “Devils in Baggy Pants,” taken from the diary of a German officer killed in battle.
Its most recent history includes a deployment to Afghanistan’s volatile southern Ghazni province, where Stock led the brigade in what military planners called the last major clearing operation of the decade-long war.
During the six-month deployment, Devil Brigade paratroopers conducted nearly 3,500 patrols, killed or captured 400 enemy combatants, found nearly 200 roadside bombs and weapons caches and engaged the enemy over 170 times at a cost of eight paratroopers killed and about 200 wounded in action. Over 100 paratroopers received awards for valor on the battlefield.
Stock, who has served 12 of his 23 years in the Army with the 82nd Airborne Division, said that leading the brigade had confirmed the adaptability, agility and resilience of paratroopers.
“Prior to deploying to Afghanistan, we had four mission changes in about a four-month period,” he said.
The final orders that led them to Ghazni province allowed for less than three months to prepare and was only possible because of agile, adaptive and disciplined leaders, he said.
Stock said his paratroopers fundamentally changed the environment in southern Ghazni and provided a choice to the people that did not exist prior to the unit’s arrival.
The infantry erected joint U.S./Afghan bases in the middle of insurgent supply lines, engaging the enemy almost daily and disrupting the flow of weapons and fighters to population centers to the north and south. Cavalry scouts established the most effective district governance in the province, he said.
Stock’s artillerymen trained and certified on completely new howitzers in only two months before deploying, and his sustainment Soldiers serviced troops at 10 bases dispersed over 2100 square miles despite being only at 58 percent strength.
“To our paratroopers and Families, thank you for what you have done and what you continue to do everyday for our nation, our Army and the Devil Brigade,” said Stock. “It’s been incredible to watch. It is not as appreciated as much as it should be.
“I wish I could stay longer,” he said. “I have the best job in the Army, in the best brigade in the Army.”
The 1st Brigade Combat Team is scheduled to step in as the ground element of the Global Response Force in late 2013, when the division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team finishes their year-long assignment.
Bredenkamp is married to Col. Michele Bredenkamp, who serves as an Army War College Fellow. The couple is expecting their second child.