BCT's new boss a first for Army
Vietnam native takes command of Rakkasans
By JAKE LOWARY
Fort Campbell's 3rd Brigade Combat Team has a new commander, one that is the first seen by the Army. On Thursday at Hangar 3, a place where just a few weeks ago the soldiers of the brigade were welcomed home after more than a year in Iraq, Col. Viet X. Luong took command of the Rakkasan brigade, assuming a title known as Rakk 6.
Luong, a native of Vietnam, took over for Col. Dominic Caraccilo, who will in about four months begin another tour to Iraq as the executive officer to Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of coalition forces there.
By taking command of the some 4,000 soldiers, Luong is the first native of Vietnam to command an American Army brigade.
Luong left Vietnam with his family in 1975, just a day before the fall of Saigon. His father served in the Vietnamese Marines and spent time in several refugee camps before setting foot in America, and impressed upon his son to "never forget" his heritage.
Several Vietnamese military members, some of which were members of Luong's family, attended Thursday's ceremony.
During his family's trek to America, Luong said he noticed the admirable qualities in American soldiers and sailors.
"I knew about that time I wanted to serve," he said. "I don't think there's anywhere else this can happen."
Luong will lead the 3rd BCT into combat in about 12 months when the brigade deploys to Afghanistan.
Deputy Commanding General for the 101st Airborne Division Brig. Gen. Steve Townsend said Luong is the right man for the job. "There is simply no better commander for the Rakkasans' next rendezvous with destiny," he said.
Caraccilo leaves the brigade after a successful deployment to Iraq. The Rakkasans handed over 18 of the 23 operating bases in their battle space to the Iraqi Army before redeploying and lost just three soldiers during its deployment.
"Through all of their successes (in Iraq), Dominic Caraccilo led them," Townsend said.
Caraccilo said Wednesday he was a bit emotional about leaving, and said he joked about tackling Luong so he could keep command of the brigade.
Caraccilo has been at Fort Campbell since November 2004 when he served as the division operations officer for transformation before commanding the Rakkasans.
"It's really the friendships you'll miss most," he said.
Luong said a lot will remain unchanged and a big focus will be on the well-being of Rakkasan families, who he said have endured a lot in the seven-plus years the brigade has been deploying to operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.
As for goals, Luong said he does have a list of benchmarks he'd like to achieve, the most important of which is "to be the best commander I can be," he said.
Since arriving at Fort Campbell a few weeks ago, Luong said he and his wife, Kim, and children Ashley, 13, Brandon, 11, and Justin, 8, have been welcomed warmly.
"You can feel the community reach out and try and embrace us," he said.