Fort Polk Guardian Staff Writer
FORT POLK, La. – The siren song of duty has once again called Fort Polk’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), to action.
In a fitting farewell marked by grandiose gestures and the solemn words of commanders, Friday’s deployment ceremony at Honor Field drew Soldiers, Family Members, dignitaries from the local area and the 10th Mountain Division’s (LI) top leader.
After evoking chuckles for his remark about the sweltering heat, Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander, told audience members that the brigade’s “Forged for War” motto was a great catchphrase for a formation of warriors.
“It is the motto of these Patriots you see standing in front of you — the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division,” Townsend said.
Although the history of the regimental colors and battle streamers displayed during the ceremony represent nearly every war since the nation’s founding, Townsend explained that the Patriot Brigade was forged for this war in particular.
“In 2005, this nation found itself engaged in two wars, simultaneously, and our Army was ordered to expand,” he said. “These Patriots have since answered the call at home and abroad, and the Patriot Brigade before you is about to undertake its fourth combat deployment during this long war and their third to Afghanistan.”
As the conclusion of combat operations nears over the next 18 months, Townsend said, it is tough, but fitting that 4th BCT and the rest of the division will be among the last American units to fight in Afghanistan.
“Over the last year, its mission as a security force assistance brigade has changed the shape of what (a) deployment formation would look like, several times,” the general said. “Departure was accelerated by almost three months. Yet the Patriots never wavered. They rolled with the changes and continued to steadily prepare — the hallmarks of the combat-seasoned, disciplined and dependable formation of veterans that they are.
“They will advise the Afghan security forces,” Townsend added, referring to the brigade’s mission down range, “much like Special Forces do, only on a much larger scale, as they help build the Af-ghan Army and police.”
Townsend’s ultimate message to the Soldiers standing in formation was frank.
“I’m not going to sugar coat this,” he said. “This mission is extremely challenging. In fact, arguably, it will be the most chal- lenging and demanding mission you have undertaken in this war to date.
“But you have trained for this mission for a long time,” Town-send continued. “I know you are physically and mentally ready for any challenge that will arise while you are down range. I’m certain of your skills as warriors, trainers and advisers and confident in your leaders. I know you will accomplish your mission.”
Col. Mario Diaz, 4th BCT commander who will lead the Patriot Brigade into action, told those present that casing the brigade’s colors during the deployment ceremony was a hallowed Army tradition that was filled with difficult emotions.
“As we send a formation composed of the sons and daughters of America to a foreign land on behalf of our great country,” Diaz said, “there is anxiousness to get the mission started, pride in knowing how many great things have been accomplished over the last couple of years, and trepidation because the veterans and Family Members in the stands today know the sacrifice of deployments.
“Husbands and wives, parents, children, aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers came from far and away to recognize this great combat brigade,” he added. “Your strength is our strength, and I ask for that to continue over the next 10 months. It will make our success even greater. I also want to thank the local communities and organizations that have welcomed the Patriot Brigade with open arms and have continued to support us in good times and bad.”
Soldiers and Families bear the brunt of having to deal with a deployment that comes earlier than expected, Diaz continued.
“I am proud and humbled at how the Patriot Soldiers and Families have responded to (preparing for) this mission,” he said. “(But) this feat was not accomplished alone. The leadership and support provided by the 10th Mountain Division has been consistent and comprehensive. Sometimes they gave a pat on the back and sometimes a kick in the butt to help us get ready.”
Team Polk, according to Diaz, also was a major player in the Patriot Brigade’s readiness.
“After (Brig.) Gen. (William) Hickman, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general, found out about the 90-day shift, he only had one question: ‘Mario, what do you need?’” Diaz said. “This team approach extended to operations group, the coaches of the leader training program, the expert advisers in the 162nd Infantry Brigade, the 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 115th Combat Support Hospital, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital and the great garrison leadership and staff.
“I want to publicly and emphatically state this: We could not have been prepared to accomplish our mission as a brigade combat team 90 days earlier than expected if we were stationed anywhere else in the Army,” he said. “Fort Polk and Team Polk made it happen for this brigade – thank you very much.”
The colonel called it a distinct honor to command the 3,449 Soldiers of the Patriot Brigade.
“I highlight this particular number because it represents every Soldier currently assigned to this great brigade combat team,” he said. “Not all of those Soldiers are on the field today or will deploy, but make no mistake – they are all incredibly valuable to our nation.
“My mission to those Soldiers in the stands and out in the box that are not deploying is to stay mentally, physically and emotionally ready,” Diaz added. “Our nation may call you to come forward for another critical mission.”
Diaz concluded by telling the deploying Soldiers that their mission to train and advise the Afghan security forces is a critically important one.
“It will be complex, uncertain and sometimes frustrating,” he said. “But if we think, move, fight and always do what’s right, I am confident that we will return to this field in about 10 months with our heads held high, knowing that when our nation and Army called, the Patriots answered.”
Townsend left the Soldiers with one final word.
“Good luck to you on your mission,” he said. “May God bless you and your Families and keep you safe.
“Forged for war, climb to glory,” he finished.