4th BCT deploys to eastern Afghanistan, community shows support
Lt. Col. Anthony Coston, center, commander of 94th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, leads troops to their position on Honor Field during the brigade's deployment ceremony Sept. 30.

FORT POLK, La. - Members of Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk and the local community gave a warrior's send-off to Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), on Sept. 30 at Honor Field.

The brigade combat team, nicknamed "The Patriot Brigade," seemed to fill the parade field as the massed battalions marched to their places in new "multi-cam" uniforms. The atmosphere was electric: Soldiers anticipating a deployment they have been training for since they returned from Iraq in 2008; Families tearful, but proud; and grateful community members showing support.

The sun glinted off the instruments of the 10th Mountain Division Band as military cadences wafted across the grandstands, and Soldiers stood in immovable rows across the grass.

Maj. Gen. James L. Terry, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, reminded troops of their history and encouraged them to serve proudly.

"Since 9/11, the 10th Mountain Division has been at the center of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

"This brigade stood up in January 2005 and has a commendable history that has added to the proud legacy of the 10th Mountain Division and to the legacy of Fort Polk," Terry continued. "In that time, they have accomplished three tough missions: disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; spread units across Afghanistan in 2006-2007, which laid the framework for the transition to NATO forces in the south; and most recently, a deployment to Baghdad, Iraq, in 2007-2008.

"You'll need to draw on all these successful experiences and your training as you once again partner with the national army and police forces of Afghanistan. This is your proud legacy, and you will continue to build on it."

The 4th BCT is deploying to the eastern portion of Afghanistan, a mountainous and remote area where the Taliban has proved to be a tough enemy. The high altitude, steep terrain and scarcity of infrastructure combine to make a difficult operating environment.

"The operational environment is different from what you experienced in Iraq," Terry warned Soldiers. "The mountains of Hindu Kush and the insurgents there can be unforgiving, but I'm confident that you all are ready for the challenges that lay ahead."

Brig. Gen. James Yarbrough, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commander, said this deployment comes at a critical time.

"This deployment is not just about replacing a brigade in theater," he said. "This mission, at this time, by this unit, is going to be critical to the success of our campaign in Afghanistan.

"Let's remember what we've done so far," he continued. "We're eliminating the enemy forces. We're taking Taliban leaders off the street quicker than they can put them on. Last week, senior Taliban officials approached the government of Afghanistan to talk about reconciliation. That's a good sign in my opinion. Afghanistan's new government is taking more responsibility every day; their security forces are becoming bigger and more effective."

Yarbrough recalled the U.S. success in Iraq.

"Don't forget how grim the situation was in 2007 in Iraq. A lot of people said it couldn't be done. 'It's too hard, too many deaths, too many years.' That's when we doubled our efforts," he said. "What made the difference in Iraq is when the people and the enemy figured out that the U.S. wasn't leaving until the job was done. We're going to do the same thing in Afghanistan."

The brigade completed training at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, in 2009 and a rotation at JRTC in July.

"No brigade is better prepared than this one," Yarbrough said. "We've put 21 brigades through their mission readiness exercises since I've been here, and not one did better than the Patriots did in July."

Col. Bruce Antonia, 4th BCT commander, said he is confident in his troops.

"We are ready for this endeavor," he said. "For the past 21 months, these warriors have trained together to form a cohesive team, ready for any challenge that awaits us. We will take care of each other."

Yarbrough said he would ensure the Soldiers' loved ones were cared for, and addressed the Families.

"We know the sacrifice you make. You've got the tough job, living with uncertainty every day, hanging on the news reports," he said. "Please know that your country understands the level of your sacrifice. This mission is critical, and we can't succeed without you. Your strength and encouragement is helping us win this war. Don't stop."

Terry reminded Soldiers and Families that the brigade's mission is a positive one. "The eyes of this nation and the world will be on you as you shape Afghanistan to be a better place. Depart with the thanks of a grateful nation," he said.

"We look forward to seeing each of you on this parade field a year from now, mission accomplished, home safe," Yarbrough said.

(Morgan is a staff writer with the Fort Polk Guardian)

Page last updated Thu October 21st, 2010 at 10:06