Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Bosnia 2001: Looking back at the 48th Infantry Brigade's Historic Mobilization

By Maj. William Carraway

Historian, Georgia Army National Guard

Georgia National Guard Soldiers of the 48th Infantry Brigade conduct annual training at Fort Stewart, Ga. August-September 2000 in preparation for
mobilization to Bosnia in March 2001. 

Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Freeman recalls the day early in 2000 when, as a lieutenant, he called his Soldiers of the Support Platoon, 2nd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment together in the Albany Armory.

“I told the platoon that, based on the rumblings I had been hearing, we would deploy sometime in the near future, observed Freeman. “At the time, my platoon laughed at the notion.”[1]

Months of rumblings and rumors gave way to confirmation in February 2000. Major General Tom Carden, then a major assigned as operations officer for the 2nd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment, recalled receiving the official notice of the deployment.

“The 48th Brigade commanding general at the time was Brig. Gen. Robin Hughes, noted Carden. “He notified the formation that we would deploy two battalion task forces and the 148th Forward Support Battalion to Bosnia as part of Stabilization Force 9. We had a large meeting at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth to go over the details of the upcoming mission.”[2]

Freeman recalled his reaction to the official announcement.

“I remember turning around and smiling at (my Soldiers) upon receipt of the news,” recalled Freeman. “Deployment was not something the Georgia National Guard was used to hearing during those days. New times were definitely upon us.”[3]

The Bosnia deployment would encompass approximately 1,200 Soldiers from the 48th Infantry Brigade. Brigade headquarters staff would work alongside staff of the 3rd Infantry Division during the mobilization. The 2nd Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment would supply approximately 650 Soldiers to command a task force. This task force would be augmented by companies of the 1st Battalion 121st Infantry Regiment while logistics, medical and maintenance support would be provided by the 148th FSB. Company C, 648th Engineer Battalion was assigned to provide engineering support while firepower would be provided by the Cedartown-based Company B, 108th Armor.[4]

Following the announcement, the 48th Infantry Brigade received an influx of volunteers from across the state. Marc Massey was a private 1st class in the Jackson-based 166th Maintenance Company when he learned of the Bosnia deployment.

“I had heard that the 48th Brigade was being spun up to go to Bosnia,” recalled Massey. “At the time I felt that this was the closest to ‘war’ that my generation would get.”

Massey interviewed with Command Sgt. Major James Allen, senior enlisted advisor of the 148th FSB and arranged a transfer to Company B.[5]  

Sergeant Susan Corbitt applies a bandage to a simulated
casualty during training at Fort Stewart, Ga. Sunday
Sept. 10, 2000. Corbitt is a medic with the Macon-based
Company C, 148th FSB Photo by Spc. J.M. Lowry,
124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

The Georgia National Guard units that assembled in 2000 would not be the first mobilized to the Balkans. Georgia’s Citizen Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division Detachment mobilized to Croatia in 1996[6] and in 1998, the 124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment returned from a nine-month rotation as part of Task Force Eagle in Bosnia.[7] Nevertheless, the size of the 48th Infantry Brigade mobilization was a marked increase in National Guard involvement in Bosnia, a fact Maj. Gen. David Poythress, Adjutant General of Georgia, observed.

“The Department of Defense, the U.S. Army and the United States are demonstrating their confidence in the 48th Brigade and the Georgia National Guard by selecting these units to lead the way for National Guard participation in support of this mission,” said Poythress in March 2000. “This is the first time that a National Guard combat unit of this size and capability will take over such a large portion of this mission.”[8]

For many Soldiers of the 48th Infantry Brigade, the Bosnia deployment represented an opportunity to demonstrate the brigade’s capabilities following the experience of the 1991 Desert Storm mobilization in which the 48th, as the round out brigade of the 24th Division, was certified as combat ready following its rotation at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif. but not in time to deploy with the 24th ID. For nearly a decade, the memory of the 1991 mobilization haunted the Soldiers, many of whom felt they had not been given a chance to prove themselves.

“There was real sense of determination from those who had been a part of the long rotation that we would leave no doubt the Georgia National Guard could and would be successful training for and conducting missions in Bosnia,” said Freeman.[9] 

Like Freeman, Command Sgt. Major Walter Kegley Sr., the brigade’s senior enlisted leader, felt an initial sense of trepidation about the deployment but was soon convinced “that this was an excellent opportunity for the brigade to show its value to our active Army counterparts.”[10]

The summer of 2000 brought significant changes to the 48th Infantry Brigade mission. General Hughes was assigned as assistant commander of 1st Army at Fort Gillem and promoted to major general. Succeeding Hughes as commander of the 48th Infantry Brigade was Brig. Gen. Robley Rigdon who would additionally serve as assistant commander of the 3rd Infantry Division in Bosnia. Colonel Tommy Stewart was appointed to serve as the brigade task force commander in Bosnia.[11]

Brigadier General Robley Rigdon, and Command Sgt. Major Walter Kegley Sr, command team of the 48th Infantry Brigade at Fort Stewart Aug 30, 2001.

Major William Alan Dent, then executive officer of the 148th FSB, shared his reaction to the change of command.

“We thought (Hughes) was deploying with us,” recalled Dent. “However, he was soon re-assigned as a First Army Advisor and did not deploy; we wanted him to deploy, and it was disappointing that his leadership would be missed. But Brig. Gen. Rigdon stepped in as brigade commander and was an excellent choice to lead the brigade to Bosnia.[12]

Fort Stewart: The Training Begins

As the chaplain assistant for 2-121, Spc. Anthony Davis recalled the train up for Bosnia from a unique perspective. Davis had learned of the possible deployment during a regional chaplain conference in 1999 shortly before the Georgia National Guard mobilized in response to Hurricane Floyd. A sophomore at the University of North Georgia, Davis recalled reporting to Albany before executing a three-week field training exercise at Fort Stewart in August and September 2000.

Spc. Anthony Davis, a chaplain's assistant with the Georgia Army National Guard's Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry Regiment.
Photo by Sgt. Roy Henry, 124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

“In the field, the chaplain and I would either stay around the battalion maintenance point or with the medics. Part of our job during the train up was to visit the units in the field at Fort Stewart, the ranges and at Camp Oliver.” Davis recalled a particular instance in which a battalion staff meeting, held at Red Cloud Alpha Range was interrupted at regular intervals by M-1 Abrams live-fire.[13]

Carden, who had previously mobilized with the 48th in 1991 and who would subsequently deploy to Iraq recalls the three-week training exercise at Fort Stewart, as among the most aggressive in his more than 35-year military career.

“We qualified on Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M1 tanks up through platoon live fire certification,” said Carden who also recalled the force-on-force Marne Focus exercise with the 3rd Infantry Division.[14]

“We treated the pre-deployment training as if we were going into full scale combat operations,” said Carden. We felt that if we could do the most difficult missions, it would enable us to easily accomplish the actual mission of stability and support operations.”

Staff Sgt. Scott Boyd of Company B, 148th FSB probes
for mines at Fort Stewart. Photo by Spc. James Sherrill
124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
In December, the Soldiers were put on federal orders and resumed training in earnest at Fort Stewart as recalled by Pfc. Massey:

“The train up was intense. I arrived at Fort Stewart just before New Year’s Day 2001. We were racked in the National Guard Barracks and began performing basic Soldier training on sight.”

Joining the 48th at Fort Stewart was Warrant Officer 1 Ralph Lovett who reported to the brigade directly from Field Artillery Warrant Officer Basic Course at Fort Sill, Okla. A 1991 graduate of Georgia Southern University, Lovett recalled that this portion of the train up: “…focused on basic soldier skills such as land navigation, and marksmanship with some time spent on specific concerns for Bosnia such as counter mine operations (poking around with a stick trying to find a mine) and entry control point (ECP) procedures.”[15]

Also reporting to Fort Stewart straight out of school was newly minted 2nd Lieutenant Alexander McLemore who had completed officer candidate school with the Georgia Military Institute in August 2000 and graduated from Infantry Officer Basic Course at Fort Benning the following December. While assigned to the Tifton-based Headquarters detachment, McLemore never reported to his home-town armory.

“I never made it to Tifton, said McLemore. “We graduated on a Friday and left right away for Fort Stewart.” Arriving, McLemore went straight to the billets and immediately entered the training rotation with 2-121. Expecting to receive an assignment as a platoon leader, McLemore was instead assigned to work with Maj. Carden in operations where he would take on main shift battle captain duties working with Sgt. Michael Persley.[16]

Sergeant Michael Persley and 2nd Lt. Alexander McLemore of Headquarters Company, 2-121. Photo courtesy of Alexander McLemore.

Representatives of the 48th Infantry Brigade visited Bosnia in January 2001 to meet with leaders from Security Force 8.[17] The following month, President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Fort Stewart. Lovett recalled the Feb. 12, 2001 visit:

“There was a lottery to sit with POTUS, SECDEF and the 3ID Command Staff (MG Walter Sharp) during the President’s speech. I was shocked to win a ticket and sit right behind POTUS and SECDEF. It was quite motivating to say the least.”[18]

Fort Polk

Subsequent to the Presidential visit, the 48th Infantry Brigade travelled to Fort Polk for a rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center which Dent described as “extremely cold and wet the entire 3 ½ to 4 weeks during that rotation.”[19] Dent’s description was widely echoed by other Soldiers of the 48th Infantry Brigade who were interviewed for this retrospective.

“It was cold, wet and miserable,” said Massey. “We lived in circus tents. The heaters could barely keep up with the damp cold air. When we weren’t standing on a gate or guard shack in the rain shivering, we were slugging through the mud trying to get equipment fixed.”[20]

Specialist Philip Basinger of the Winder-based Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 121st Infantry quizzes Soldiers on various aspects of the
up armored HMMWV at Fort Stewart, Ga. Sept. 2, 2000. photo by Spc. J.M. Lowry, 124th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

Despite the austere conditions, the 48th Infantry Brigade made progress in training and task organization. Kegley recalled several meetings with counterparts in the 3rd ID to determine the right mix of Guard and active personnel for the mission. He also noted that the 3rd ID and Georgia National Guard “provided all the facilities and oversight that was needed in preparation of deploying (to include) SRP, medical, dental, family support, quarters, and administrative support.”[21]

Returning from Fort Polk, the Citizen Soldiers enjoyed time with family before assembling at local armories across the state for send-off ceremonies.

Soldiers of the Georgia Army National Guard's Company B, 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment commanded by Capt. Frank E. Holder hear remarks
by Cherokee County commissioner Harry Johnson, during the unit’s departure ceremony at the Leland National Guard Armory in Canton March 8, 2001.

On March 12, 2001, more than 300 Georgia National Guard Soldiers departed Hunter Army Airfield Bound for Bosnia.[22]

Next Chapter: Task Force Eagle.


[1] Jeff Freeman interview Sept. 22, 2021.


[2] Tom Carden interview Sept. 20, 2021.


[3] Jeff Freeman interview Sept. 22, 2021.

[4] Jim Driscoll and Ken Baldowski. “Elements of Georgia’s 48th Brigade to Deploy to the Balkans.” News Release, Ga. DoD, March 28, 2000.


[5] Marc Massey interview September 30, 2021.


[6] The Georgia Department of Defense. Mission, Vision, Values the Georgia Department of Defense in 1997. (Atlanta: 1997) 2.


[7] The Georgia Department of Defense. Building for the New Century the Georgia Department of Defense in 1998. (Atlanta: 1997) 5.

[8] David Poythress. “Command Focus” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, Spring, 2000, 2.


[9] Jeff Freeman Interview Sept. 20, 2021.


[10] Walter Kegley Sr. interview September 30, 2021.


[11] David Poythress. “Command Focus.” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, Summer, 2000, 3.

[12] William Alan Dent interview September 23, 2021.


[13] Anthony Davis interview September 22, 2001.


[14] Tom Carden interview September 20, 2021.

[15] Ralph Lovett interview September 23, 2021.


[16] Alexander McLemore interview September 23, 2021.


[17] “Credit Where Credit is Due.” The Georgia Guardsman Magazine, Fall, 2000, 2.

[18] Ralph Lovett interview September 23, 2021.


[19] William Alan Dent interview September 23, 2021.


[20] Marc Massey interview September 30, 2021.


[21] Walter Kegley Sr. interview September 29, 2021.


[22] Jingle Davis. “Georgia Troops Heading to Bosnia. Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 12, 2001, 1.

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