101st prepares for next mission to Afghanistan
Posted on 12 months ago
The shouts of joy and the applause of last year's return ceremonies barely had time to fade before the division's troops began to receive their next missions. Even as units took brief breathers from the cycle of training and combat to celebrate their accomplishments, as well as honoring their fallen comrades and their decorated heroes, commanders were telling them to prepare to get back to the serious business of meeting the nation's commitments. Training at Fort Campbell began to ramp up again late last year and continued into 2012 in places like Fort Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center, as well as other locations.
For the Screaming Eagle brigades – Bastogne, Strike, Rakkasan, Currahee, Wings of Destiny, Thunder and Lifeliners – the next "Rendezvous with Destiny" was a matter of time.
Experienced soldiers knew that it would be a relatively short time.
Currently, 2,950 Rakkasans of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team and 2,580 soldiers of the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade are "standing in the door," readying to redeploy in the fall.
The notifications arrived from the Department of Defense on June 7.
Over 400 members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, "Strike," already returned to Afghanistan during the first week of May, barely a year after coming home from the last deployment. Led by Col. Dan R. Walrath, the senior officers and non-commissioned officers of the Strike contingent were anticipating deploying with their full brigade when they were suddenly missioned for an advisory role to the Afghan Army.
They are currently split up in 12-man teams spread across a 300 mile area of eastern Afghanistan, operating in a unique capacity that is somewhere between the "teach and train" advisory role traditionally performed by Special Forces soldiers, and the role of Observer/Controllers.
Along with senior leaders of other brigades similarly tasked, the Strike soldiers are part of an effort to truly put the Afghan military in the hands of Afghan leaders and soldiers. If they can succeed, the need for U.S. forces will become less, in keeping with the targets established to pave the way for eventual withdrawal of American combat troops, although some American presence will likely remain for years.
Back at Fort Campbell, new Strike deputy commander Lt. Col. Townley Hedrick has been tasked with keeping nearly 3,000 2nd Brigade Combat Team soldiers sharp during the absence of platoon sergeants, company commanders and other senior leaders.
Everyone has been expected to step up to the next level. Team leaders are now squad leaders, platoon leaders are company commanders and so on, right up the chain. Fortunately, many of the first sergeants are still with the brigade, putting old eyes on young leaders as training has become constant and progressively tougher.
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