1st MEB to case colors after 53 years

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In July 1962 the 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade was constituted as Headquarters, Special Troops, at Fort Polk. On Aug. 17, the brigade cases its colors, bringing to an end 53 years of service.

Recently, the unit’s command team, Col. Jesse Galvan and Command Sgt. Maj. Marc Torres, shared what it’s like to inactivate a brigade, a scene familiar in today’s Army.

“This (the inactivation) has been years in the works,” Galvan said. “When the Army made the decision to downsize based on whatever population Congress authorized, it was decided at DA (Department of the Army) level that the two maneuver enhancement brigades in the active component would be inactivated.”

“That gave us some time because we had the DCERF (Defense Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosives (CBRNE) Response Force (DCRF) mission and the 4th MEB picked it up after us,” Galvan said. “We both completed those missions and it gave us some time to figure out how we were going to handle the deactivation process. We were both scheduled to deactivate at the end of FY15. The 4th inactivated in June and we’re inactivating in August.”

Galvan said there were unique circumstances surrounding the deactivation of the 1st MEB when compared to units at other military posts. “At other installations in the Army, you typically have a division or corps staff that can take on some of those duties and responsibilities from a logistics perspective,” he said.

“Fort Polk is not aligned like that. We had an organization that could assist — the brigade support battalion — but that battalion inactivated, so a great deal of the effort with regards to the maintenance went to the LRC (Logistics Readiness Center).”

Included in the deactivation was the dispersal of “thousands and thousands” of pieces of equipment, Galvan said. “It had to go through a vetting process,” he said. “First, if the units on this installation need that piece of equipment, whether it’s a vehicle, weapons systems or machine, then we would hand receipt that equipment — through the installation staff — to the unit so it’s on someone else’s property book. If it wasn’t needed on the installation then it had to go to FORSCOM (Forces Command) and they would vet it across FORSCOM to see which of their units might need it. Next would be the Army, then the National Guard and Reserve component.”

Galvan said the vetting process and transferring the equipment was a long, drawn out process.

“And to make it more difficult, the equipment had to meet certain maintenance standards,” he said. “That’s where the LRC and our Soldiers do a great job making sure all of the equipment was up to speed.”

Torres addressed issues faced when finding a home for the deactivating unit’s Soldiers. “Personnel was my challenge, balancing capability versus requirements,” he said. “We had to make sure we had enough people to turn in the equipment before the commander and I leave.”

Torres said he worked closely with units across the installation to find homes for Soldiers who remain after deactivation.

“We also worked with big Army HRC (Human Resources Command) to decide what was best for the Soldier, the unit and the Army,” Torres said. “Some of our NCOs (noncommissioned officers) needed to go be drill sergeants or other broadening assignments, so we sent them to go do that. We’ve tried to phase our draw down so that when we turn the lights off and shut the door to this building, there will be no one left but myself and maybe Maj. (William) Griffiths. It just takes coordination and nesting with the gaining units so they know where everyone is going, and nesting with higher ups so they can support us.”

Galvan said that for the most part, there were no problems finding new homes for the unit’s Soldiers.
“Brigadier General (Timothy) McGuire (Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commander) said the installation would harvest the talent from the 1st MEB, so basically, JRTC and Fort Polk would get the first pick of our Soldiers,” Galvan said.

“We’ve taken some high speed, low drag NCOs and junior Soldiers and put them in units across the installation. We’re happy we were able to meet the CG’s guidance and keep good talent on Fort Polk.”

In addition to leaving some of the 1st MEB’s top Soldiers at Fort Polk, the unit has also left two battalions — the 519th Military Police Battalion and the 46th Engineer Battalion. “Another unique thing about this deactivation is one brigade headquarters and one battalion are deactivating, but we’re leaving behind two full battalions,” Galvan said. “They’ll stay here but their headquarters will be at Fort Bragg, North Carolina — the 46th (En Bn) with the 20th Engineer Brigade and the 519th (MP Bn) with the 16th Military Police Brigade.”

Although the two battalions will be geographically separated from their brigade headquarters, Galvan said there have been minimal issues. “We drew on our experiences in replacing other units in combat to do the same here and it worked well,” he said.

Torres said it’s become more common for units to be geographically separated from their headquarters, Army wide. “The bottom line was, that’s what they were told to do,” he said. “And that’s often how it is in combat.”

Galvan said his biggest challenge during the past 14 months has been to ensure the brigade staff and installation staff were synced, and that he managed expectations from the commanding general during the disposition process.

“Because it’s long, because it’s arduous, because it’s deliberate, it doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “Can it be expedited? It can, and the CG and installation staff worked very hard to energize systems out of our control. We even had Forces Command G-4 come down and look at what we were doing to help expedite. Once we figured it out, we were off and running. And of course, the CG’s guidance was ‘Get rid of the equipment before you’re gone.’ We’re going to be very, very close to getting it gone by the time we inactivate on Aug. 17.”

Torres said his toughest task was managing an ever-dwindling supply of Soldiers. “The last couple of weeks, someone leaves every day,” he said. “We had a way of doing things, and as people leave, we’re having to change that up. It’s made it tough.”

Galva said as difficult as it is to case the colors of an organization, it’s “kind of cool” that he and Torres are the command team, and get to hold the unit’s colors as it inactivates.

“It’s been a great ride,” he said. “I knew when I came to command this brigade that we were inactivating. Unlike the rest of our classmates in the pre-command course who had visions of doing great and wonderful things with their organizations, the 4th MEB commander and I commiserated the fact that what we ‘get to do’ is inactivate an organization. That said, we have done as much in the 14 months we’ve been a command team, as most command teams have done in two years of command. Not only have we deployed and redeployed Soldiers into the fight, been responsible for the law enforcement and force protection missions, saved the installation more than $1 million in engineering projects and built relationships with the city of DeRidder, we also inactivated a brigade. Our amazing Soldiers did it.”

After beginning its service as Headquarters, Special Troops, it was re-designated July 1, 1970 as Headquarters Command, Fort Polk.

The unit was granted approval to use the name “Devil Troop Brigade” in March 1982, aligning the brigade’s support mission to the 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized). Major subordinate commands of the Devil Troop Brigade included the 588th Engineer Battalion; 15th Evacuation Hospital; Provisional Battalion; 5th Personnel Service Company; 36th Medical Detachment; and 5th Inf Div Noncommissioned Officer Academy. On Dec. 3, 2001, approval was granted to use the name Headquarters and Headquarters Company (P), Warrior Brigade and realigned to support the Warrior Brigade and Joint Readiness Training Center.

Another name change occurred June 1, 2006, when the unit was renamed 1st Combat Support Brigade (Maneuver Enhancement)(Provisional). Major subordinate commands of the brigade included 46th Engineer Battalion, 519th Military Police Battalion, 83rd Chemical Battalion, 142nd Combat Service Support Battalion, and the 88th Brigade Support Battalion.

On Sept. 16, 2007, 1st Combat Support Brigade (Maneuver Enhancement)(Provisional) deactivated and activated as 1st Combat Support Brigade (Maneuver Enhancement) become the first active-duty modular unit of its kind.

The unit’s final name change took place Nov. 16, 2007 when it was re-designated as the 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. It’s major subordinate units were Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st MEB; 46th Eng Bn (CBT)(HVY); 519th MP Bn; 83rd Chemical Battalion; and 88th Brigade Support Battalion.

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