Sgt. Javier S. Amador
3rd Brigade Combat Team Journalist
With the last flight carrying the final contingent of the nearly 2,000 Soldiers lifting off from the runway at Fort Drum’s Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield on Monday, the final deployment of the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team was officially under way.
The brigade will be assigned to Regional Command East, an area of Afghanistan that shares a border with Pakistan. Larger than the state of Virginia, RC-East includes the provinces of Bamyan, Ghazni, Kapisa, Khost, Kunar, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Paktiya, Panjshayr, Parwan and Wardak.
Once there, Soldiers will begin their mission as a security force advising brigade primarily focused on providing support and assistance to Afghan forces. Taking the lead in their efforts to secure their nation has been a marked departure for members of the Afghan forces since the counterinsurgency missions that constituted the majority of previous U.S. deployments.
With the planned goal of a complete withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the number of units deployed down range has dropped.
As a result, the brigade will assume a large area of responsibility with considerably fewer personnel.
But it is a challenging mission that the Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division commander said he is confident the brigade will complete.
“This division marched up the spine of Italy to defeat the Nazis, and that is a part of your legacy,” Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend told Soldiers during their final mission briefing. “The history of this division and our Army is riding on your shoulders.
“Other people will be reading about the history you will be making – the end of the American campaign in Afghanistan,” he added.
As the brigade begins its deployment so close to the end of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Soldiers understand the scope and importance of their upcoming mission.
With that in mind, Command Sgt. Maj. Rick Merritt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) senior enlisted adviser, told the Soldiers that they possess the tools, skills and knowledge that will ensure success.
“If you want to know what victory looks like, look to your right and your left – look in the mirror,” Merritt said. “We are proud of you and know that you have been trained well. We know that the Spartans will do well.”