CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait –
Soldiers and aviators of the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), successfully conducted post-mobilization operations and formally assumed its new mission as Task Force Mustang during a Transfer-of-Authority ceremony with outgoing Task Force Eagle held in the Middle East on Saturday.
Task Force Mustang will be providing full-spectrum Army aviation operations to Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), an international coalition to advise, assist, and enable regional partners in the enduring defeat of Da’esh, the Arabic term for the Islamic militant group known as ISIS, in Iraq and northeastern Syria. In addition, the aviation task force will provide aviation support to Task Force Spartan of Operation Spartan Shield (OSS).
After a year of preparation, the 36th CAB completed its mobilization in early August at North Fort Hood, Texas, and was immediately followed by in-person transition operations with the 11th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), U.S. Army Reserve Aviation Command, at Camp Buehring and newly assigned airfields and outposts across the Middle East. Establishing and readying Army rotary aircraft across the area of operations involved a vast number of UH-60 Blackhawks, CH-47 Chinooks, and AH-64 Apaches.
The 36th CAB will comprise of battalions from Texas, along with aviation units and Soldiers from other states including New York, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Wyoming, and Louisiana. Aviation battalions include the 449th Aviation Support Battalion (ASB), commanded by Lt. Col. Erika Besser, accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. Derek Renfer; 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion (GSAB), commanded by Lt. Col. Carisa Kimbro, accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. Ron Hill; and the 3-142nd Assault Helicopter Battalion (AHB), New York Army National Guard, commanded by Lt. Col. Matt Greene, accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. James Holloman. Active duty and coalition aviation partners falling in from Task Force Eagle to Task Force Mustang include Task Force No Mercy of the 101st Airborne Division, Task Force Toro, from the Spanish Armed Forces, and Task Force Griffon from 5th Regiment of the Italian Army.
Attending the ceremony were command teams from both brigades, Task Force Spartan of OSS, 36th Sustainment Brigade, Area Support Group Kuwait (ASG-KU), coalition partners, and Army Central Command with a keynote address to the attendees by U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John W. Brennan, commanding general of CJTF-OIR.
“I appreciate the great support, and great partnerships we have,” stated Brennan. “The 11th ECAB has made some tremendous impacts on this theater. They were included in the response not only to the Hassakeh prison break [in Jan. 21, 2021], but also a last minute POTUS travel to Tel Aviv, as well as supporting countless kinetic strikes, theater crisis responses, countless air movements, and training missions throughout the entire CENTCOM theater.”
Brennan then noted Task Force Eagle as the largest Army Reserve aviation mobilization in history. Over a thousand service members deployed from the U.S. Army Reserve, making the 11th ECAB also one of the largest reserve mobilizations since Desert Storm.
“Based out of five states with Soldiers hailing from 41 different states, you added component one capability with Task Force No Mercy, the attack battalion from the 101st Airborne Division –a great integration across multiple components,” he added. “Throughout the deployment you truly exercised decentralized command and control as you covered across the entire CENTCOM Area of Responsibility (AOR), operating from 17 bases in five different countries, all while executing your operations in support of both OIR and OSS to an extremely high standard. Best of luck in all your future endeavors. I would fight to serve with your team again.”
Brennan then turned to the new authority of the mission.
“Task Force Mustang, you are now ready. It is clear that your predecessors of Task Force Eagle, and the Task Force Phoenix before them, have set you up for success. You definitely have got big shoes to fill, but I know you are up to the task,” he stated. “I know Task Force Mustang is in good hands under your leadership, and I look forward to seeing all the future accomplishments of the 36th CAB as you hit the ground running for the next two weeks while under my command. Task Force Mustang’s reputation preceded you. Your previous experiences in the CENTCOM AOR will be a huge benefit. Although things have changed since 2013, I think you will jump right back in and pick up where you left off. You will have a lot of challenges but know that you are part of the family and the team of teams, and we are here to help you with anything you need. One mission, many nations.”
U.S. Army Col. Matthew Hill, commander of the 11th CAB, Task Force Eagle, highlighted achievements and his gratitude over the past nine months.
“Thank you for all you did for the distinguished support of OIR moving forward. To the 36th CAB team, welcome. I wish your team the very best and there is no doubt the mission is in capable hands of the 36th,” said Hill. “As I close this out, to the Soldiers of Task Force Eagle, you truly are an inspiration. It was a privilege to serve as your brigade commander throughout this deployment. You are part of an elite group of dedicated professionals –true patriots who represent less than one percent of the American population, who voluntarily agree to raise your right hand and be placed to confront the face of the enemy regardless of environment, and preserve our American values and our way of life. It is for this reason, it was a distinct pleasure and cherished honor to serve with, amongst, and for you. I wish each and every one of you the very best. Task Force Eagle’s watch has ended. Eagle-6 out.”
U.S. Army Col. Scott P. Nicholas, commander of 36th CAB, now Task Force Mustang, humbly accepted his new duties and responsibilities to the OIR command team.
“We appreciate the immediate inclusion and coalescing of the 36th CAB thus far. I look forward to working with you as we progress within the given space and time,” he stated.
Nicholas recounted a quote by scientist Carl Sagan to the audience; “The earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, where species can migrate. To visit, yes, but to settle in, not yet. Like it or not for the moment, the earth is where we make our stand.”
“The reason I thought this was salient today is because as we are reminded of just getting here, there is no shortage of cruelty in this world,” Nicholas added. “Each one of you in this room have chosen to forgo your way of life to stand in between people who have the malign intent—the means to bring that intent to bear in the defenseless. So, for that, I say thank you.”
Nicholas concluded with his appreciation to preceded leaders of the mission.
“Task Force Eagle, you have left an amazing legacy on Army Aviation. Each one of you are going home with distinction and with honor, and we plan to pick that up and keep the same pace,” said Nicholas. “To Task Force Mustang, this began well over a year ago from Command Post Exercises to a Warfighter Exercise, and ARMS inspections, you ended up at North Fort Hood; you slugged through that, you get through the Culminating Training Exercise, and here we are. We haven’t even been here for a week, and we have seen the capabilities we will bring to bear to Task Forces Griffon, Toro, No Mercy, our GSAB, ASB, and AHB. You are ready, you are prepared. Having said that, let’s get back to work –Mustangs!”
Accompanying Col. Nicholas were remarks provided by Command Sgt. Maj. Robert W. Hartzog, command sergeant major of Task Force Mustang.
“Our leaders have exceeded expectations and are committed and ready to achieve our goals,” said Hartzog. “We are ready to get to work and make a consummate and explicit impact on the mission.”