Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn
2nd Brigade Combat Team PAO NCOIC
Soldiers of 2nd Brigade Combat Team began their deployment in January split in two. One half stayed at Fort Drum as the rear provisional and the other in Af-ghanistan as the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade.
To commemorate the reunification of the halves, the Commandos conducted a reintegration week Nov. 12-15 that included the Commando Olympics, brigade run and a ceremony.
The intention of the olympics was to strengthen camaraderie throughout the ranks by creating sports teams of Soldiers who were deployed mixed with those who did not deploy. The brigade’s six battalions competed against each other in basketball, flag football, water polo and running events.
To build upon existing esprit de corps, the brigade conducted an early morning run. Soldiers sang cadences and cheered each other on. Their Commando pride ech-oed through Fort Drum on every road they ran on.
The week was capped with a reintegration ceremony at the Magrath Sports Complex. As the battalions stood in formation, they looked back on all they have accomplished throughout 2013.
They also paused to remember their fallen comrades.
Col. Dennis Sullivan, 2nd BCT commander, stood before the brigade formation during the ceremony to congratulate the Soldiers on a job well done.
“Before we declare the reintegration complete, I would like to make a few remarks about the achievements over this past year of these great organizations within the brigade,” he said.
More than half of the brigade remained on Fort Drum as the rear provisional force who carried on with business as usual. They continued to train, support division and local community events and most importantly, take care of the Families of the deployed Soldiers.
The deployed force formed several Security Force Advise and Assist Teams to aid in the training of Afghan forces. They also were an integral part in closing several forward operating bases for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghan- istan.
All of the battalions provided their own set of expertise that added to the overall mission of the brigade both at Fort Drum and in Afghanistan.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, also known as the Golden Dragons, operated in the most dangerous part of Paktika Province, where they forged bonds of unity among their Afghan security partners and helped ensure they had the competency and confidence to defeat any enemy threat.
The 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, Polar Bears were chosen to remain at Fort Drum. Their main mission this past summer was to train cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point. They also set the standard for excellence in the division quarterly challenges.
The Wolverines of 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment trained two Afghan National Army battalions so they will be fully capable of securing their area of operation without any U.S. or other coalition force assistance.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, Allons, kept the forward operating bases safe by employing several accurate artillery fires. They also performed an advisory mission by training an ANA brigade to effectively, accurately and routinely employ their own D-30 howitzer artillery system.
The Gladiators of 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion conducted several engineer, intelligence and signal missions. The engineers cleared thousands of miles of roads, ensuring safe passage for resupply and retrograde missions. The unmanned aerial vehicle platoon provided air-ground communications, and the communications teams kept the brigade connected.
The Providers of 210th Brigade Support Battalion gave logistical support to sustain the coalition forces throughout Paktika Pro- vince and retrograde a decade’s worth of equipment from eight bases by air and ground.
Although the overall mission was a success, the efforts of several Soldiers came with sacrifice.
“We all know our profession is a dangerous one, and this mission did not come without a cost paid in blood, sweat and tears by Commando Soldiers, Families and good friends,” Sullivan said. “Through many enemy contacts, our Soldiers distinguished themselves, often while fighting alongside our Afghan partners.”
Soldiers earned 10 awards for valor, and 33 Soldiers were awar-ded the Purple Heart for wounds they received while under enemy fire. Four Soldiers and one civilian adviser lost their lives: Lt. Col. Todd Clark of Green 0 SFAAT team; Lt. Col. Jaimie Leonard, brigade security officer; Sgt. Javier Sanchez of A Company, 2nd BSTB; Pfc. Mariano Raymundo of B Company, 210th BSB; and Joe Moribito, a law enforcement professional for Green 0 SFAAT team.
No matter where the Soldiers were stationed this past year, the overwhelming support from Fort Drum, Families and the greater community did not go unnoticed.
“When I gave a speech here at our deployment ceremony last January, I asked for the help of the Fort Drum and North Country community to support our Families and Soldiers here at Fort Drum,” Sullivan said. “And you did exactly that, and for that, we salute you and want all of you to know we appreciate the support.
“Thank you also to our Families. A deployment takes a toll on those on the homefront as well,” he continued. “The source of much of the strength of this brigade is our Families. We sincerely appreciate your love and support over this past year.”
In the end, the reason for the reintegration week was to solidify the Commando Soldiers back into one team.
“Today marks the day when we are once again one brigade combat team,” Sullivan said. “We have spent much of our time since we returned last month on putting the brigade back together as one team at all levels – not two separate organizations, but one strong team ending one chapter and embarking on a new but familiar path preparing for when our nation calls on the Commandos once more.”