1st Air Cav Soldiers begin journey to Afghanistan
June 1, 2011
CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan - As the sun sets on one Army aviation unit's time in Afghanistan, a new dawn is on the horizon for another.
The first wave of Soldiers from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade began streaming into northern Afghanistan this month, setting the stage for the pending transfer of authority of U.S. aviation operations in Regional Commands North and West from the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade to the 1st ACB.
According to Maj. R.J. Garcia, from San Antonio, the executive officer for 1st ACB, as the transition process begins, the brigade's paln centers around three main objectives.
"Our initial focus right now is on building our combat power in theater, training and understanding our new operational environment, and establishing our logistical footprint to support our operations as we move forward," he said.
The Soldiers of the 1st ACB began preparation for this deployment last fall, with training that focused heavily on conditions and scenarios often encountered in Afghanistan.
Training ranged from aerial gunneries back at Fort Hood to a three-month, high altitude training exercise near Fort Carson, Colo.
Garcia noted that once training was complete and combat readiness established, the focus turned to the families, who are enduring a short dwell time since the brigade returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom last year.
"We wanted to make sure our families had the tools to help them deal with the added stresses that arise with deployments, especially with this short dwell time," he added.
Moreover, one junior non-commissioned officer, on his second deployment and first to Afghanistan, acknowledged the efforts of the outgoing element during the transition process.
"We really appreciate everything 4th CAB did to usher us into theater," said Sgt. Curtis Hopper, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter mechanic from Peru, Ind. "It's obvious they've worked hard to make improvements to the living conditions here."
Garcia echoed that sentiment.
"They [4th CAB] have been tremendous in assisting us throughout this transition," he said.
Everyone is working together to try and get them [4th CAB] back home and get our Soldiers settled in so we can be ready to execute the mission, said Hopper.
Hopper noted that one of his challenges as a leader gearing up for this deployment was getting his Soldiers to be in the right frame of mind, especially those who had deployed previously to Iraq with the unit.
"It seems like two different worlds: Afghanistan compared to Iraq," he said.
Garcia added, "It's a different environment that's far more complex, but our Soldiers are excited about this new challenge."
Hopper provided his prediction for the upcoming year.
"This will probably be a tougher deployment than the last one…but this is what we joined for, and it's nice to finally be out here and get the ball rolling," he said.
Not surprisingly, after nearly a year away from their friends and family while supporting the Coalition's efforts in Afghanistan, 4th CAB Soldiers welcomed the arrival of their 1st ACB counterparts.
"Just like any other Soldiers, seeing our counterparts make their way into theater is a great feeling, because it means we are that much closer to coming home and being with our loved ones," said Master Sgt. Vicente Mendoza, 4th CAB's food service supervisor, originally from Mexico.
"We started from scratch when we got here, and hopefully all of our hard work will pay off for the incoming unit," he added.
Finally, Garcia foresees a successful deployment for the 1st ACB, and credits the brigade's preparation and training efforts for his assessment in that regard.
'It's a long and tough road ahead in a tough environment, but there is no doubt in my mind that we are ready for it," he added.