ZAGAN, Poland – U.S. Soldiers of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team (Dagger Brigade), 1st Infantry Division (2-1 ABCT), replaced the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat (Iron Brigade), 4th Infantry Division (3-4 ABCT), at a ceremonial transfer of authority held in Zagan, Poland, Dec. 9, 2022.
Once used to indicate rallying points to Soldiers fighting on the battlefield, a unit’s colors were designed to stand out in the chaos of combat. Today, after the commands, “unseat colors,” and “seat colors,” echoed during Thursday’s ceremony by Command Sgt. Maj. Kenneth S. Chaney, command sergeant major of Iron Brigade, the colors often serve to represent a moment of transition between two units.
With Chaney’s call, Iron became Dagger as 3-4 ABCT was replaced by 2-1 ABCT. Dagger will now take part in the 1st Infantry Division’s mission in Europe as it continues to work alongside NATO allies and regional security partners to provide combat-credible forces to V Corps, America’s forward deployed corps in Europe.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John V. Meyer III, commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley, hosted the ceremony alongside U.S. Army Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, commander of V Corps, Gen. Jaroslaw Mika, commander of Poland’s armed forces branches, and Polish army Maj. Gen. Piotr Trytek, commander of the 11th Armored Cavalry Division.
The Iron and Dagger Brigades share a storied past in Europe. Together they emerged from the English Channel and gallantly broke through German defenses entrenched at Normandy. They continue to write pages in the ever developing history of Europe.
“We appreciate [Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division] joining the Big Red One,” said Meyer. “We appreciate you joining our team. While here, you had an opportunity to improve your readiness, you had an opportunity to prepare for your warfighting tasks and to work with our Allies on improving our capacity, our capability and our interoperability so we can fight together if needed.”
As soon as their boots touched the ground, the Iron Brigade participated in Defender 22, the largest land forces exercise conducted in Europe.
“What an incredible experience for all of us assigned to the Iron Brigade,” said U.S. Army Col. Stephen E. Capeheart, commander of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. “We remain ready for any mission, any time, under any conditions. That is due to the fantastic training opportunities that we’ve been able to have.”
From there, the brigade went on to train across numerous countries throughout the Baltics and work alongside a diverse set of allied units. Together alongside NATO forces they participated in Operation Karahall and through exercises Ryse, Badger and Bear which contributed to the collective readiness of Europe.
“We have to be ready for the known and unknown challenges of a complex world,” said Capeheart. “We are truly stronger together.”
The ceremony was held inside the auditorium of the new Black Division Club. Completed in September 2022, the club was built in honor of the Polish 1st Armored Division, an armored division of the Polish armed forces in the West that was mustered in Duns, Scotland, in February 1942. The unit was present during the final phases of the Battle of Normandy and participated in a number of significant moments of the Second World War thereafter.
“I am deeply grateful that [the United States] has been serving here and working on tightening Polish and American military cooperation,” said Mika. “Serving together, Polish and American soldiers have had a great opportunity to exchange their military capabilities but also to learn from each other and expand their horizons.”
For the 2-1 ABCT, preparing for their upcoming mission to support NATO has been nothing short of vigorous. Before boarding a plane heading for Poland, the brigade trained rigorously and performed in a constant state of readiness, prepared to leave Kansas at any moment. Over the course of the past they participated in two national training center rotations and an emergency readiness exercise.
This is not the first time the unit has been in Poland. In 1917, the Dagger Brigade first set foot on European soil. Like the rest of their division, the brigade landed in North Africa, in Sicily and in Normandy. Now, over 105 years later, its Soldiers continue to participate in the history of the continent.
“Across western Europe you’ll see monuments, markers, artifacts and cemeteries honoring the men and the women that wore the Big Red One patch before us,” said U.S. Army Col. Bryan M. Harris, commander of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. “This deployment to Eastern Europe will add luster to our brigade’s storied legacy and reputation. Dagger is ready for the journey.”
As one chapter closes a new one fast begins. Like the Iron Brigade before them, the Dagger Brigade is eager to hit the ground running.