By Spc. Occoless Trotter
PORTSMOUTH, Va. -- The Virginia National Guard's ongoing transformation efforts reached another milestone on Feb. 11, 2006 when the cavalry rode back into the Commonwealth. After an absence of more than two decades, red and white cavalry guidons once again flew in Virginia as the 3rd Battalion, 111th Air Defense Artillery was inactivated and the 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry was activated. The ceremony celebrated the rich history and tradition of the 3rd Battalion as its colors were cased and the colors of the the 2nd Squadron were unfurled.
Maj. General Arthur Wyman, commanding general of the 29th Infantry Division, along with Col. Mike Harris, commander of the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, joined Lt. Col. Walt Mercer, commander of the 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry, for the ceremony welcoming the new unit to the Tidewater area.
The squadron will train to perform the doctrinal cavalry missions of security, reconnaissance and target acquisition. This mission differs from the 3rd Battalion's air defense task of providing protection for ground forces from enemy air threats, Mercer said. “We give the brigade commander eyes and ears on the battlefield so that he can develop the situation and disrupt the enemy’s decision cycle,” Mercer continued.
Also in attendance was retired Maj. Gen. Carroll D. Childers, former commanding general of the 29th Infantry Division and unofficial historian of the 29th Infantry. Childers explained the 183rd Cavalry had existed during a different era, and provided a guidon stand from that previous time as a gift for the casing and unfurling ceremony. Childers served as a platoon leader in the 183rd Cavalry during the late 1960s.
Childers also said he was excited about the cavalry’s return to Virginia. “It’s just like a ghost has risen!” he exclaimed.
During the ceremony, the colors of the 3rd Battalion, 111th Air Defense Artillery were officially cased, signifying their formal inactivation. Then, the 2nd Squadron’s colors were officially presented and unfurled.
“It allows us to say farewell to the air defense artillery so we can focus forward on the Cav and the Cav mission,” said Mercer.
The 3rd Battalion, 111th Air Defense Artillery dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries with the forming of the Portsmouth Rifles in the Virginia Militia’s 7th Regiment. They were federalized in January 1847 as Company F, 1st Regiment of the Virginia Volunteers, where they saw action in the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. The 3rd Battalion, 111th Air Defense Artillery was reassigned to the 29th ID from the 28th ID when the Blue and Gray Division was reactivated in October 1985.
Most recently, the unit served in Bosnia, as well as in airports and military bases throughout Virginia during Operation Noble Eagle.
Wyman told the crowd in attendance at the ceremony that he was proud to see the 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry return and said he expected great things from the unit.Harris agreed with Wyman’s assessment and ended with a paraphrase of a quote from the movie, “We Were Soldiers,” exclaiming, “Saddle up, Cav … never fall!”