Fort Campbell, KY – The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) held a change of command ceremony on Friday June 17th, 2011, Colonel Viet Luong relinquished command to Col. R.J. Lillibridge before the entire brigade.
The change of command ceremony is rooted in military history dating back to the 18th century during the reign of Frederick the Great of Prussia. At that time, organizational flags were developed with color arrangements and symbols unique to each particular unit. To this flag and its commander, the soldiers of the unit would dedicate their loyalty and trust. When a change of command takes place, the flag is taken from the outgoing commander and then passed to the individual assuming the command by their superior officer. This gesture is done in front of the unit so that all could see and witness their new leader assuming his dutiful position. He who holds the flag also holds the soldier’s allegiance. This symbolic tradition has survived throughout military history.
Shortly before the change of command ceremony Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell held a small awards ceremony. Col. Viet X. Luong received the Legion of Merit for his outstanding performance as the commanding officer of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. Luong’s wife, Kim, received the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal.
The Change of Command Ceremony began with the recognizing of the VIP guests who were in attendance. They were Mr. William Harpel, Civilian Aide for the Secretary of the Army for Tennessee East, and 2010 Champion of Fort Campbell; Mrs. T. C. Freeman Civilian Aide for the Secretary of the Army for Kentucky Central, and 2010 Champion of Fort Campbell; Col. Bob Freeman, U.S. Army Retired, and Champion of Fort Campbell; Maj. Gen John F. Campbell, Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and Mrs. Campbell; Maj. Gen. Robert Eaves, U.S. Army Ret.; Brig. Gen. Warren E. Phipps, Deputy Commanding General (Support) 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and Mrs. Phipps; Brig. Gen. Steve Townsend, Deputy Commanding General (Operations) 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and Mrs. Townsend; Brig. Gen. Jeffery N. Colt, Deputy Commanding General, and Nancy Colt; Command Sgt. Maj. Wayne St. Louis, Rear CSM of the 101st Airborne Division; Col Ted “The Wild Turkey” Crozier, U.S. Army Ret., and 2010 Champion of Fort Campbell; Mr. Phil Harpel, 2010 Champion of Fort Campbell; Col. Pete Johnson, Chief of Staff of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and Mrs. Johnson; Command Sgt. Maj. James E. Musgrove, U.S. Army Ret.
The Invocation was given by the 3rd Brigade Combat Team Chaplin Tom Faichney.
Following the Invocation, The Adjutant called out “Sound Attention,” this is a call of alarm during which the soldiers turn out under arms and officially begins the ceremony. The Adjutant then called out “Sound Adjutants’ Call”, this indicated the Adjutant was about to form the brigade. The sound of the trumpets call rippled across the field.
Maj. Ryan Seagreaves, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team’s Executive Officer serving as The Commander of Troops for the ceremony and the brigade staff took their positions on the field. They were saluted by the assembled troops.
The reviewing party which consisted of Col. Viet Luong the outgoing commander and Col. R. J. Lillibridge the incoming commander took the field. They were then saluted by the assembled troops.
The entire brigade then rendered honors to Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) commanding officer.
The Commander of Troops reported to the Brigade Commander, “Sir, the brigade is present” to which Col. Luong responded “Rakkasan”.
Now it was time for Col. Luong to inspect his troops one last time, as Col. Lillibridge accompanied him. The announcer read a history of the brigade. Following the inspection the reviewing party resumed their position in front of the reviewing stand.
At this point in what is the most visually stunning part of the ceremony, it was time for the officers of the units and the various colors to advance to an assembly point; then when they were all in place they were marched en masse to a spot before the reviewing stand where the official handing off of the brigade colors and the command would take place.
The brigade and those in attendance then rendered Honors to the Nation, as the National Anthem was played.
Maj. Gen. Campbell, the reviewing officer joined up with the reviewing party. Then they marched on the field to pass the brigade colors.
The Custodian of the Colors, Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Crabtree, the senior enlisted soldier in the unit and principle advisor to the commander then removed the 3rd brigade colors from the hands of the brigade color bearer Spc. James Turbeville; the color bearer exemplifies the high standards of discipline, conduct, and military expertise that go with the responsibility of carrying the flag that means so much to his fellow soldiers. Crabtree handed the brigade colors to Col. Luong. Then Maj. Gen. Campbell then took them placed them in the hands of Col. Lillibridge.
Now it was time to pass the regimental colors for this Honorary Colonel of the Regiment Maj. Gen. Robert Eaves, U.S. Army Ret; and Honorary Sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. James E. Musgrove, U.S. Army Ret. took the field. Musgrove took the colors from the regimental color bearer and passed them to Col Luong. Eaves then removed the colors from his hands and placed them in Col. Lillibridge’s hands.
With the command transferred the reviewing party and honorary regimental leaders walked from the field, and a vigorous round of applause broke out.
Silver Star recipient Spc. Nicholas Robinson presented a bouquet of red roses to Col Luong’s wife Kim on behalf of the officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers of the brigade for her dedicated service as the first lady of the Rakkasan family. Robinson won the silver star for his valiant actions at the 5th Afghan Border Police compound near Combat Outpost Zerok in Afghanistan.
SSG. Crystal Proctor presented a bouquet of yellow roses to Col. Lillibridge’s wife Georgia on behalf of the officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers of the brigade welcoming her in to the Rakkasan family, a single yellow rose was presented to his daughter Shelby, and a Rakkasan patch to his son Braden. Proctor is the 3rd Brigade NCO of the Year
Maj. Gen. Campbell then took the podium to make a few remarks.
He was followed by Col Luong.
Closing out the remarks was the new commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team Col. Lillibridge.
Then the soldiers passed in review, closing out the ceremony.
After the ceremony, Col. Luong and his family then made themselves available to well wishers.
After the receiving line settled down Col Luong took a few moments to answer questions from the reporters who attended the ceremonies.
About the outgoing 3rd BCT Commander Col. Viet X. Luong
Colonel Viet Luong emigrated from Viet Nam with his family to the United States in 1975.
Col. Luong started his military career upon graduating from the University of Southern California, receiving a Regular Army commission. His first assignment was with the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado, where he served as Rifle Platoon Leader, Anti-Tank Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, and Battalion Maintenance Officer. In 1993, COL Luong was assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina and served in the 2nd Battalion, 325 Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade, 82d Airborne Division, as the Assistant S-3 (Operations), and subsequently, Commander of Alpha Company. Following his assignment at Fort Bragg, he was assigned to the Joint Readiness Training Center as an Observer Controller, and subsequently assigned to the Southern European Task Force (SETAF) upon completion of the Command and General Staff College. COL Luong served as SETAF G3- Chief of Plans, and the Operations Officer and Executive Officer of the 1st Battalion, 508th Airborne Battalion Combat Team, 173d Airborne Brigade, and Vicenza, Italy. Following this assignment, he was assigned to Joint Task Force North at Fort Bliss, Texas where he served as a Plans Officer and Chief of the Targeting and Exploitation Division in support of the Department of Homeland Security. In 2005, COL Luong assumed command of the 2d Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3d Brigade Combat Team, and 82d Airborne Division. In February 2008, COL Luong assumed the duties of Deputy G-3, XVIII Airborne Corps (Rear).
Col. Luong holds a degree in Bio-Chemistry from USC and a Masters of Military Arts and Science. His military training and education include Airborne School, Ranger School, the Infantry Officer Basic and Advance Courses, Command and General Staff College, and Joint Forces Staff College.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters, Ranger Tab, Senior Parachutist Badge, Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and Expert Infantryman’s Badge.
He is married to the former Kimberly Lau of Denver, Colorado. They have three children: Daughter Ashley (13) and sons, Brandon (11) and Justin (8).
Operational Highlights during Col. Luong’s Command
During OEF X-XI, Task Force Rakkasan completed nearly 600 major named operations, with individual battalion task forces conducting over 12,000 unit-level patrols in Paktika, Pakyta, Khowst provinces, Deh Yak and Andar districts in Ghazni province, and Panjwa’I district. Task Force Rakkasan Units also conducted almost 2,200 Key Leader Engagements (KLEs) or shuras with local village leaders.
In Area of Operation Rakkasan including Paktika province, over 2000 enemy fighters have been taken off the battlefield since the unit’s arrival in February 2010. Specifically, Task Force Rakkasan has killed or captured 152 High Value Targets (HVTs), split between the Joint Effects List (JEL), Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL) and the Joint Target List (JTL). Rakkasan units have confirmed over 600 enemy fighters killed, with enemy reporting indicating between 800-900 of their fighters killed. Additionally, the task force detained over 1,200 insurgent fighters. TF Leader conducted operations in the Horn of Panjawa’I, resulting in an additional 64 enemy fighters killed during their 90-day mission in support of RC-S.
Task Force Rakkasan’s artillerymen conducted 2,016 fire missions delivering 14,282 artillery rounds, including 246 missions fired in support of troops in contact, resulting in 94 enemy killed and 27 wounded. These devastating fires were provided by firing platoons employing three different weapons systems (M119, M198, M777) from 11 Combat Outposts (COPs) orForward Operating Bases (FOBs) spread across three provinces that equal the size of Vermont.
In March 2010, the 3rd Battalion 172nd Infantry Regiment (Mountain), Vermont National Guard, joined organic 3BCT units, and deployed to Paktya Province as a battle space owning unit in AO Rakkasan. Task Force Avalanche conducted 65 major named operations 4,300 combat patrols and 9 air assault operations, including 3BCT’s largest air combined assault operation of the deployment in support of Operation Champion Stone, with over 700 coalition and ANSF Soldiers participating.
During this same period, Task Force Rakkasan’s vigilance and expertise in acting on intelligence and local tips resulted in 192 major weapons or explosives caches discovered, 723 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) found and destroyed, and countless low-level persons of interest detained during targeted operations.
About the incoming 3rd BCT Commander Col. R. J. Lillibridge
Col. R.J. Lillibridge is a native of Smithfield, RI. He graduated the United States Military Academy in 1989 and was commissioned as an Infantry 2LT.
Col. Lillibridge’s first assignment was with the 2d BN, 187IN, 101st ABN DIV (AASLT) where he served as a rifle platoon leader (to include Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm), Anti-Armor Platoon Leader, Anti-Armor Company XO and Rifle Company XO. Upon completion of the IOAC, he was assigned to 1st BN, 5thIN (M), 2d Infantry Division, Republic of Korea, where he served as the BN S1. He was then assigned to the 82d ABN DIV where he served as the BDE Asst S3 for the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment; Commander, C Co, 3rd BN, 504PIR (to include Operation Uphold Democracy – Haiti); Aide de Camp to the Commanding General, 82d ABN DIV; and Commander, E Co, 311MI (LRSD). He was then assigned to FT Leavenworth, KS and the Battle Command Training Program (BCTP) where he served as an Exercise Control Chief.
Upon completion of the CGSC, Col. Lillibridge then rejoined the Rakkasans as the S3, 2d BN, 187IN (OEF 1 and OIF 1); S3, 3BCT (OIF 1); Chief of Operations, G3, 101st ABN DIV (AASLT) (OIF 05-07); Commander, 1st BN, 187th IN (OIF 07-09). Col. Lillibridge then joined the faculty of the Naval War College when he served as a National Security and Policy Making professor.
Col. Lillibridge has a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the U.S. Military Academy and a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College.
His awards and decorations include the AASLT badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Military Freefall Badge, Combat Infantryman’s Badge with star, and the Ranger Tab.
He is married to the former Georgia Goodman of Nashville, TN and they have two children, Shelby and Brayden.
About the 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasan”
The 187th infantry regiment, from which the Rakkasans draw their history and lineage, was constituted on Nov. 12 1942, at Camp Mackall, N.C. On Feb. 25, 1943, it was activated and designated as a Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR) assigned to the 11th Airborne Division.
The first mission of the 187th GIR was to convince the War Department that an airborne division could fly over water at night, drop with minimal casualties, and wage sustained combat operations while being resupplied entirely by air. The mission was deemed a success on Dec. 6, 1943, as the landings were perfectly executed and the objective taken. The success of the Knollwood Maneuvers proved the effectiveness of the airborne division concept and compelled the war department to create other airborne divisions.
In May 1944, the regiment deployed to the southwest pacific and was attacked by the Japanese 3rd Parachute Regiment on Dec. 6, 1944. The 187th repelled the enemy force and, three months later, seized Lipa Airfield on Luzon. The 187th fought continuously until January 1945, and suffered heavy casualties while taking Purple Heart Hill. On Aug. 30, 1945, at 1 a.m., the first planes carrying 187th Soldiers left for Atsugi Airfield. This was a momentous occasion, as the 187th would be the first American as well as foreign troops to enter Japan in more than 2,000 years. While serving as part of the American Occupation Force and conducting training jumps, it was the Japanese who gave the paratroopers of the 187th Infantry Regiment the nickname “Rakkasan,” loosely translated as “falling umbrella.”
On Aug. 27, 1950, the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment was reorganized and re-designated as the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. In September 1950, elements of the 187th exploited the success of the Inchon landings, clearing the Kimpo Peninsula between the Han River and the Yellow Sea. In the months that followed, the unit defeated an enemy force of more than 3,000 soldiers, performed a textbook parachute assault and heavy drop at Sukchon-Sunchon, and defeated the Chinese in the Battle of Wonju. The Rakkasans again performed another record-breaking airborne operation into the Munsan-ni Valley, fighting battles at Inje, Kumwha, Wonton-ni and quelled prison-camp riots at Koje-do. The Rakkasans’ successes in Korea changed the face of airborne warfare and revitalized interest in the use of paratroopers.
It also convinced the Pentagon to reactivate XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C.
On Dec. 13, 1967, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, reported for duty in the Republic of Vietnam. The Rakkasans were called upon to perform many hazardous operations against “hot spots” of enemy activity throughout every corps area in the Vietnam Theater and became known as the “nomad” unit. Though not the only battle of their service in Vietnam, it was the Rakkasans that defeated the first line Vietnamese army forces in the battle for Hamburger Hill, Don Ap Bia.
In September 1990, the Rakkasans deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield. In February 1991, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment air assaulted into Objective Weber and captured more than 400 Iraqi soldiers. However, it was on Feb. 25, 1991, the 48th anniversary of the regiment, that the Rakkasans conducted the largest and deepest air assault operation of its time—striking 155 miles behind enemy lines into the Euphrates River valley. This action led to the timely defeat of Iraqi forces and helped ensure a total Allied victory.
In 2002, as part of the ongoing war on terrorism, the Rakkasans were deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). They conducted operations against the Taliban forces and were instrumental in liberating the nation from Muslim extremists. The Rakkasans took part in numerous missions in Afghanistan, to include fighting in the Shah-I-Kot mountain region of eastern Afghanistan known as Operation Anaconda.
In 2003, only months after their return, the Soldiers of the 187th Infantry were sent back to Southwest Asia to defeat Saddam Hussein and free the Iraqi people from his dictatorial form of government. Throughout Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Rakkasans conducted several air assaults as well as ground attack convoys (GAC), they secured numerous forward area refueling points (FARP) in central Iraq and they participated in the liberation of Saddam Hussein International Airport. In the post-war phase, the Rakkasans conducted operations against guerrilla forces along the Syrian border and in the Tikrit triangle region of Iraq.
In early 2004, the 187th returned to Fort Campbell for little more than a year. During that time it was reorganized under Army transformation and became the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT). The newly independent 3BCT also prepared for another deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, departing for Iraq in September 2005 for OIF rotation 05-07, serving in the Salah Ad Din Province, near Tikrit. Returning in 2006, the Rakkasans underwent refit and re-training. A year later, in September 2007, the Rakkasans deployed to Iraq again for OIF rotation 07-09, operating southwest of Baghdad between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
Even now, the Rakkasans have begun preparing for their next “rendezvous with destiny,” being the only BCT with an airborne regiment lineage in the history of the U.S. Army to fight in every war since the inception of airborne tactics. From glider, to parachute, to helicopter, the Rakkasans have entered combat in each mode of airborne warfare and have pioneered its implementation. Throughout their history, the Rakkasans have upheld the motto “Ne Desit Virtus—Let Valor Not Fail” and continue to do so today.
- 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment (1-187 IN; Leader Rakkasans)
- 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment (3-187 IN; Iron Rakkasans)
- 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry (1-33 CAV; War Rakkasans)
- 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment (3-320 FA; Red Knight Rakkasans)
- 3rd Special Troops Battalion (3STB; Rak Solid Rakkasans)
- 626th Brigade Support Battalion (626 BSB; Assurgam Rakkasans)