The heritage of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Kelley Hill, Fort Benning, Ga., is a unique blend of two proud lineages. The unit traces its roots to the foundation of the 3rd Infantry Division and to a long-term affiliation with Fort Benning and the home of the Infantry.
The 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division was constituted on Nov. 12, 1917, in the regular Army as headquarters, 6th Infantry Brigade. The brigade was organized on Dec. 1, 1917, at Camp Greene, N.C. From there, the brigade deployed to the First World War's European battlefields and received battle streamers for participation in the Asine, Champange-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Champange campaigns.
The brigade was disbanded on October 12, 1939 at Fort Douglas, Utah. During WWII, each regiment represented in the 3rd Brigade fought as part of the 3rd ID, where they were known as the Blue and White Devils. The unit was reconstituted on April 18, 1963, as 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division in Aschaffenburg, Germany, where it served until relocating to Fort Benning 1996.
The brigade's special association with Fort Benning began when the 197th Separate Infantry Brigade was organized in September 1962 as a separate brigade to support the Infantry school. The brigade was later assigned a worldwide rapid deployment mission as part of the XVIII Airborne Corps. In October 1990, the 197th deployed to Operation Desert Shield / Desert Storm as part of the 24th Infantry Division. The 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry division was attached to the 1st Armored Division alongside the 197th and together they spearheaded the coalition attack to the Euphrates River.
In June 1991, upon return from Operation Desert Storm, the 197th was re-designated as the 3rd Brigade, 24th Infantry Division. In 1996, the 3rd Infantry Division colors came home from Germany to Fort Stewart, Georgia. On April 24, 1996 the Brigade Combat Team at Kelley Hill assumed the proud lineage of the 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.
In January 2003, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Kuwait in support of the Global War On Terrorism. On March 20, 2003, the Sledgehammer brigade spearheaded the coalition ground attack into Iraq, leading the 3rd Division's attack during three major battles. Over 21 days and 600km of continuous offensive combat operations, 3rd Brigade's drive culminated in the isolation and seizure of northwest Baghdad, setting the conditions for the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime. The Sledgehammer Brigade redeployed to Fort Benning in June 2003 and almost immediately transformed into a unit of action.
The 3rd Brigade Combat Team deployed to Diyala Province in Iraq during January 2005 in support of the 42nd Infantry Division. The Sledgehammer Brigade contributed to the success of the constitutional referendum and Iraq's first free national elections in December of 2005.
After redeploying in January 2006, the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team again prepared to deploy, fight and win for the third time in support of the Global War On Terrorism. In February 2007, the Brigade conducted a National Training Center rotation at Fort Irwin, Calif., and immediately began preparations for its third deployment to Iraq as part of the "surge" of forces, two months ahead of its planned deployment date. This time, the Brigade occupied an area of operations where no other Brigade had operated, and established Forward Operating Base Hammer and seven combat outposts or patrol bases and 4 joint security centers in the Mada'in Qada - an area comparable in size to the Washington, D.C metro area, and populated by an estimated 1.2 million Iraqi citizens, composed of a mix of both Sunni and Shia.
During the 15-month deployment, the 3rd HBCT killed 160 extremists while capturing 602; 47 of those extremists were on the Division's or the Brigade's top 10 High Value Target list. The Hammer Brigade also captured over 200 weapon caches and finished with a 59% find and clear rate of IEDs in its AO. The Hammer Brigade fired over 7,000 rounds of indirect fire, While in addition the BCT completed over 436 projects worth an estimated 43 millions dollars. The projects greatly improved the QOC for the Iraqis and kept constant pressure on the extremist. Finally the Hammer installed the Sons of Iraq Program. With over 7,000 Iraqi participants, Iraqi's secured their own neighborhoods.
In October 2009, the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team once again deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Taking on the role of an advise and assist brigade, the Sledgehammer team conducted operations across five provinces in Southern Iraq. During their year long deployment, they assisted the State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams in helping the provincial governments of Babil, Karbala, Najaf, Diwaniyah and Wasit provinces provide better civil capacity and infrastructure for its citizens. In addition to assisting the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, the 3rd Brigade also executed 330 missions that provided 165 million dollars worth of support for essential services for the Iraqi people, and delivered more than 474 small-scale micro-grants, worth 2.1 million dollars. This helped stimulate local economies as well as provide humanitarian assistance.
The Soldiers of the 3rd HBCT continued to help Iraqi Security Forces keep secure the population by going on 9,500 joint patrols and stability operation missions with their Iraqi counterparts. In addition to active patrols the Soldiers of the brigade provided training to Iraqi Soldiers, Policemen, and Department of Border Enforcement.
The highlight of the 3rd HBCT’s fourth deployment was helping Iraqi Security Forces set the conditions for a successful national election. Brigade Soldiers helped monitor 1,405 polling stations and helped provide essential security materials at the sites. As a result of the brigade and Iraqi Security Force’s efforts, 62 percent voter turnout was achieved.
In October of 2010 the Sledgehammer Brigade redeployed from Iraq to begin the next chapter of its great history. Within weeks of returning to Kelley Hill, the Brigade transitioned into the new year and the reset phase of the Army Force Generation Cycle under the command of Col. Johnnie L. Johnson Jr.
The Brigade put its training to the test in February when 490 Soldiers competed to earn the coveted Expert Infantryman Bade. When the competition was complete 67 of 490 Soldiers walked away with the coveted EIB.
In addition to training, the 3rd HBCT maintained strong ties with its community partners. It donated set of 50 books in Arabic and English, as well as DVD's to its partner, Brookstone School. While deployed to Iraq for OIF VII, the Brigade established a link between Brookstone and an Iraqi school. The library was meant to keep that bond going and to help students learn.
As summer 2011 began to heat up, so did Sledgehammer activities. In July the Brigade led 3rd ID to a 3rd place finish at the 2011 U.S. Army Combatives Tournament. Of the 24 Division participants, 10 were from Kelley Hill. Two of those Soldiers reached the finals at Fort Hood, Texas.
In the field each Battalion conducted gunneries and the Brigade participated in field training exercises. Each Battalion also conducted their own Battalion-level exercise in preparation for Hammer Focus, 3rd HBCT’s largest field exercise.
In October the Brigade teamed with 14th Combat Support Hospital to host Fort Benning’s first Expert Field Medical Badge competition in over 10 years. A total of 41 Soldiers earned the EFMB, 14 from the Brigade. In October/November 2011 the Sledgehammer Brigade conducted its capstone training event, Hammer Focus to further its preparation for Full Spectrum Operations. The 3rd HBCT is currently not on deployment orders, but continues to train for any mission the Nation calls upon the unit to complete.