Military and community leaders gathered Thursday at Magrath Sports Complex to support 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers from division headquarters as they prepare to deploy to Afghanistan during the coming weeks.
The deployment will be the division headquarters’ fourth tour in Afghanistan since 2001.
“It’s important to put this deployment into perspective and reaffirm why we are once again deploying to Afghanistan,” said Maj. Gen. James L. Terry, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander. “Last week, we paused to remember the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Most of us can vividly remember the sight of airplanes smashing into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and then learning of a fourth plane that was brought down into a Pennsylvania field by its courageous passengers.
“In the weeks that followed, we came to understand the nature of this event, and as a nation, we committed ourselves to hold accountable those who sanctioned these attacks and more importantly, to do what was necessary to ensure that this type of treacherous attack on our homeland would never happen again,” he continued. “A short month after this attack, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Battalion, 1st Brigade, deployed and in March of 2002 was followed by the division headquarters. The 10th Mountain Division was leading the nation’s response to the attacks, answering our nation’s call.
“(The 9/11 attacks) became the life-changing event that set our nation and our Army on an unprecedented pace that continues today,” Terry added. “After nine years, the 10th Mountain Division remains one of the most deployed divisions in the United States military, this being the division headquarters’ fifth combat deployment and our fourth deployment to Afghanistan. This division has remained at the tip of the spear of our nation’s commitment to protect and defend its citizens.”
The commanding general remarked about how the upcoming deployment will add to the history of not only the division but also to the history of Afghanistan.
“From Riva Ridge in World War II, through Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and a lot of garden spots in between, the 10th Mountain Division has always risen to the challenge, confidently faced adversity and found strength in our motto: ‘Climb to Glory!’” Terry said. “When our nation calls, the 10th Mountain answers.
“This deployment is no different; our unified team of coalition military and civilians will serve during a critical period in the decisive terrain of Kandahar Province and the key terrain of Day Kundi, Uruzgan and Zabol Provinces. Afghanistan is where our division belongs, and it remains in our foreseeable future,” he added.
Terry also told those in attendance that their commitment is a shared one, and it is not made lightly.
“Our mission is to assist Afghan Security Forces in creating security and defeating the insurgents, while helping the Afghan government create stability for their people,” Terry said. “Through close partnership and cooperation with our coalition partners, civilian agencies, the people and the government of Afghanistan, we will strive to help the government of Afghanistan re-establish balance and offer them an opportunity for self-determination.
“The last thing I’ll say is that I’d ask all of you to be proud of yourselves,” he added. “Soldiers, civilians and Family Members from 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum and the North Country community, your commitment, accomplishments and the sacrifices of you and your Families have been nothing short of amazing, and I am honored to lead you.”
After Terry spoke, Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, remarked on how well-trained, well-led and well-disciplined the Soldiers are in their preparation to head into harm’s way.
“It is great to be up here in the North Country and welcome to all the Family and friends of the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum who are here to formally (bid) farewell (to) the Soldiers of the ‘Climb to Glory’ division and to be a part of the casing of the colors,” Thurman said.
“It is truly an honor and a privilege to stand before Soldiers of this proud division, this great division,” he continued. “It is a great day to be back in upstate New York, where summers are hot, the winters are cold and hearts are warm. Fort Drum is truly an extraordinary place.
“For the last 25 years, Soldiers have trained on this post. And when the nation has called, its Soldiers have answered that call,” Thurman added. “Yet again our nation calls, and yet again the ‘Climb to Glory’ Soldiers of the North Country answer that call. These men and women dutifully follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before.”
Thurman reminded Soldiers that they make a difference and they represent the best this nation has to offer.
“To the Soldiers who stand in this gymnasium today, you and those that you represent, you are making a positive difference around the world,” Thurman said. “You are disciplined, you are confident, you are seasoned and you are trained. And you are ready to face the challenges that lie ahead.
“Thank you for the quality of service that you render to our Army and to our great nation. Your contributions and the selfless sacrifices that your Families make every day are appreciated by all Americans. I am truly honored to be here in the presence of these Mountain warriors, the finest men and women this nation has to offer.”
He also thanked the Families, without whose support, Soldiers could not be as successful. He also recognized the burdens placed on them during deployments.
“For the Families, friends and neighbors who will remain on Fort Drum and in the local communities, I want you to know that our Army appreciates the sacrifices that you all are making,” Thurman said. “We understand that those of us in uniform are not the only ones who bear the burdens of war. Spouses, children, parents and siblings bear them as well.”
Before leaving, Thurman talked about the challenges ahead and how he looks forward to the day when he can welcome the Soldiers home.
“You go to help the Afghan people gain the freedom to which all people of the world are entitled, and at the same time, you help provide freedom and security for Americans here at home,” Thurman said. “You’re facing a process that is neither easy nor smooth. It will be very difficult, and it will demand your complete commitment and patience.
“I know the road you have traveled to get to this point, so I am fully confident you are able to meet the challenges before you, to overcome them and to return home safely,” he added. “You all have my utmost confidence and faith that you are going to get this mission done. I am certain that this division will make an important and lasting difference. I am proud of each and every one of you. Take care of yourselves, and take care of each other.”
Near the end of the ceremony, division units cased their colors in preparation for their journey and will uncase them when they assume the fight in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Nearly 800 Soldiers will deploy for approximately 12 months and assume duties as Regional Command-South. The division headquarters will assume command and control of coalition military forces and will command brigade combat teams assigned to other Army divisions.