SMA visits troops in Afghanistan
July 29, 2008
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston met and spoke with U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan this week and visited International Security Assistance Forces and Combined Joint Task Force 101 leaders to talk about the mission focus and current operations. Preston flew through Kabul International Airport Tuesday afternoon and landed at Bagram Air Field, Parwan province, where the CJTF-101 headquarters is. After a short briefing on governance, security operations and mission focus, Preston spoke at a re-enlistment ceremony held that evening at the Enduring Faith Chapel. Thirty-eight soldiers re-enlisted, swearing to uphold the Constitution and continue serving in the United States Army. He spoke about duty, dedication and answered questions posed by the soldiers. The most commonly asked question was regarding the new 12-month deployment cycle. "Deployments are hard, and although we are transitioning back into a 12-month rotation cycle, soldiers currently are still completing a 15-month tour," explained Preston. "To keep any units currently at home from getting their 12-month home time cut short, the current cycle had to be maintained and a cut off date had to be set." Other questions included promotions, stop-losses, leave concerns and short-handed military career specialties. Preston and his party flew back to the airport the next morning, where he then met with several other military leaders. Thursday morning, Preston and Command Sgt. Maj. Vincent Camacho, CJTF-101 command sergeant major, flew to Forward Operating Base Fenty, Nangahar province. They were joined by Afghan national army's Sgt. Maj. of the Army Safi Roshan, a personal acquaintance of Preston's. A group of specially selected soldiers from both TF Duke and TF Bayonet met with Preston, heard him speak and asked a few questions. While visiting FOB Fenty, the party attended the transfer-of-authority ceremony for Task Force Bayonet, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team as they were replaced by Task Force Duke, 1st Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade. Following the ceremony, the party traveled to FOB Salerno, Khost province. Again, Preston met with soldiers, this time from 101st Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team for a question-and-answer session. He spoke with soldiers about their concerns and issues, then answered questions that involved Department of the Army policies, plans and the DA's part in the mission focus here in Afghanistan. "The Army is constantly working to make things easier and improve life quality during deployment for the soldiers," said Preston. "We watch deployment cycles and lengths, policies that soldiers will follow, even look at better equipment for safety and mission effectiveness. Without the soldier, there would be no Army."