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NEWS | March 17, 2010

Southern Steel rolls out, Bootleggers take the wheel

By Spc. Jessica Zullig 135th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq, - Outside the cavalry regiment's headquarters here, troops from the 1st Squadron, 98th Cavalry Regiment of the Mississippi National Guard, known as "Southern Steel," transferred their authority to the "Bootleggers" of 3rd Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment of Tennessee National Guard.

Outgoing commander Lt. Col. John Nipp, squadron commander for the 1/98th Cavalry, welcomed the 3/278th.

"I'm as proud as an expecting papa of my squadron," he said. "We accomplished many great things and Iraq is better for us being here.

"Now, Bootleggers it is your turn as we pass the torch to you all today," he continued. "Lt. Col. (James) Blevins, Command Sgt. Major Cartwright, you have a fine squadron and I know you all will pick up right where we left off and you will continue to raise the bar. I pray that the good Lord puts his most gracious arms around each and every one of your troopers and allows them all to complete the mission safely."

Nipp left the 3/278th Cavalry with two phrases of advice: Meet on the high ground and accomplish the mission with integrity.

During the nine months the 1/98th has been on the ground in Iraq, they have completed close to 600 missions, travelling approximately one million miles without sustaining any serious injuries.

"Our convoy commanders were a great asset to our mission," said 1st Sgt. Brian Belue, the interim command sergeant major for the 1/98th Cavalry "From planning the mission to execution, we had a lot of good [staff sergeants] that made good decisions throughout the year that allowed for these safe operations."

The mission that the 1/98th Cavalry transferred to the 3/278th ACR is to ensure the safe arrival of supplies across northern Iraq.

"The transfer of authority to the 3/278th ACR has gone well," said Nipp. "I believe we set them up for success."

Belue agreed with Nipp saying, "We've done a lot work over the past two weeks to prepare these guys for the transfer of authority."

Blevins, squadron commander of the 3/278th ACR, says that the unit's primary goal is to safely conduct its missions and make sure that Soldiers are taken care of.

"We received convoy escort and Army Warrior Training to help prepare us for this deployment," he said. "It's satisfying to be here after the long train-up that we had and assume the mission."

Cartwright added, "Being in Iraq is what we trained for."