Story by Sgt.1st Class Jonathan S. DeLong, 2nd AAB, 1st Inf. Div., USD-C
BAGHDAD–Soldiers with the 1st ‘Vanguard’ Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, United States Division – Center gathered to celebrate the 150-year anniversary of the regiment’s founding May 3 at Camp Taji, Iraq, with an organizational day designed to build cohesion and resiliency throughout the formation.
The 18th Inf. Regt., constituted May 3, 1861 to serve during the Civil War, has fought in numerous campaigns in support of the defense of the United States.
And, 150 years later while deployed in support of Operation New Dawn, Vanguard Battalion Soldiers paused to remember the history and heritage of their unit.
“I believe all Soldiers who have served with this fine organization and stood in our formations would be nothing short of humbled as to where the ‘Vanguard Nation’ is today,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Evans, senior enlisted advisor with 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. and a Columbia, S.C., native. “The future of this team is solely based off of their efforts so long ago.”
The activities of the day included a battalion run that started at dawn, football, basketball, volleyball, and tug-of-war competitions between the companies in the battalion.
Additionally, there were multiple squad-level competitions in physical fitness events that promoted teamwork and unit pride. A trophy was presented to the best squad in the battalion.
“The best squad competition was a strenuous set of tasks for us collectively,” said Staff Sgt. Nathan Haag, targeting noncommissioned officer with the Vanguard Battalion and a Sparta, Wis., native. “Fortunately, I had a great group of guys who wanted to be the best and truly pushed themselves to the absolute limit so we could walk away with the trophy.”
At the close of ceremonies, the Vanguard Battalion commander and command sergeant major presented the best company trophy to Company B for having the highest overall score from the events.
Following that, the youngest Vanguard Battalion Soldier and officer, bearers of the regiment’s ‘last round,’ recited its history in front of the formation.
The history of the ‘last round’ stems from the Civil War and how a young noncommissioned officer vowed to carry the unit’s colors until his last round was spent.
The Soldiers then passed the round to the new youngest Soldier and officer within the battalion, entrusting in them the responsibility to safeguard and keep it inspection-ready at all times until next year.
“The Vanguards of today are able to stand and execute our missions because of those who have served in the regiment before us,” said Lt. Col. John Cross, commander with 1st Bn., 18th Inf. Regt. and an Elk City, Okla., native. “The first members of the regiment, led by Col. Carrington, laid the foundation during the Battle of Murfreesborough, during the Civil War and each successive generation of Vanguards have continued to build upon that solid foundation.”