FORT BLISS, Texas - A thousand New York Army National Guard Soldiers completed two months of training at Fort Bliss and are heading to assignments in the Horn of Africa for 10 months.
Known as Task Force Wolfhound, the unit conducted a formal casing of the color’s ceremony Sept. 6 to mark the end of their post-mobilization training.
The colors will be unfurled once the unit is ready to assume responsibility for security missions at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.
Over the next week, the Soldiers will depart from Fort Bliss for Djibouti, where they will replace Soldiers from the Maryland National Guard’s 29th Infantry Division.
Most Soldiers will be stationed in Djibouti, with smaller company detachments deployed to Somalia and Kenya.
The core of Task Force Wolfhound is the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry, headquartered in New York City. Since the Civil War, the unit has been famous as “The Fighting 69th” and served in World Wars I and II and Iraq.
Charlie Company from the New York National Guard’s 2nd Squadron, 108th Infantry, and a cavalry troop from western New York’s 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry, are also part of the task force.
The task force takes its name from the Irish wolfhound, the mascot of the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry, highlighting the regiment’s heritage as an Irish-American unit in the Civil War.
“We are ready physically, emotionally and spiritually,” Lt. Col. Shawn Tabankin, the commander of the 69th Infantry, told the troops during the casing ceremony. “It’s been a long road to get to this point, and the casing of our colors marks an important transition as we begin our movement overseas.”
Maj. Gen. Michel Natali, the assistant adjutant general, Army, for the New York National Guard, said the task force was well prepared for its mission because of additional training at Fort Drum, New York, before Fort Bliss.
The final exercise at Fort Bliss required each company to conduct a live-fire exercise.
“I think they will be in great shape when they get to Africa,” Natali said.
The task force ceremony to case its colors is significant because of what a battalion’s flag stands for, Tabankin said.
“The very soul of a unit is symbolized in the colors under which it fights and in the battle streamers and rings affixed to these colors,” Tabankin said. “They record the glories of the past, stand guardian over the present, and provide inspiration for the unit’s future.”
An additional 130 New York Soldiers assigned to Alpha Company of the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, mobilizes Sept. 10 for duty in East Africa.
The need for these Soldiers was identified later, so they will be deploying after the task force.
While most of those Soldiers belong to Alpha Company based in Geneseo, New York, a platoon of Soldiers from the 107th Military Police Company in New York City is deploying as part of the unit.
The Alpha Company Soldiers have been conducting additional training for the past three months and should complete training at Fort Bliss in mid-October, according to Capt. Cameron Manley, the company commander.
This is the largest deployment year for the New York Army National Guard since 2008-2009 when the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team deployed to Afghanistan, Natali said.
In June, 250 Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Aviation, mobilized for deployment to Kuwait along with UH-60 M Black Hawk helicopters.
In July, the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team mobilized 140 Soldiers to serve with the Joint Multi-National Training Group-Ukraine in Germany, where they are coordinating the training of Ukrainian troops.
And the 369th Sustainment Brigade will mobilize 250 Soldiers in mid-September for duty in Kuwait.