WASHINGTON (June 5, 2014) -- Six Soldiers from the Army's first regionally aligned brigade shared their experiences on and off the African continent during several open and closed-door sessions with congressional staff May 27, on Capitol Hill.

The meetings afforded Congress a rare opportunity to question those in the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division "Big Red One," who are serving on the front lines in Africa, and executing one of the Army's newest strategies.

"Through the conduct of over 160 missions in 30 countries over the past year, we were able to develop the capabilities of our African military partners, empowering them to strengthen and better secure their borders," said Col. Jeffery D. Broadwater, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team commander. "More importantly, we developed relationships as representatives of the United States that promoted our nation's interests and ethics."

Among the missions discussed, was the East Africa Response Force based in Djibouti and employed in South Sudan to secure the U.S. Embassy and its personnel at the behest of the ambassador.

"Once notified, the force was in Juba (the nation's capital) in less than a day," Broadwater said, highlighting the responsiveness a forward-deployed expeditionary unit affords.

Also discussed were lesser-known missions, such as unmanned aircraft system and military police training.

Broadwater highlighted the leader development such missions provided his brigade's junior leaders; Sgt. Colton Johnson, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, and 1st Lt. Deseret Fournier, with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Special Troops Battalion, respectively.

"I learned just as much from them (African soldiers), as they did from me," Johnson said.

Fournier said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to execute distributed mission command on a real expeditionary mission, adding the experience would stay with her throughout the rest of her military career.

Broadwater also talked about maintaining his brigade's global availability and the importance of the brigade's rotation at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., prior to its alignment, which prepared them for both missions.

The brigade is set to conclude its more than one-year alignment on the continent with U.S. Africa Command, the region's geographic combatant command, on June 15, when it officially transfers its responsibilities to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division.

The 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team Soldiers also shared their experiences with staff from Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts' and Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran's offices, and with Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo's staff, on May 28. Highlighted during those sessions was the invaluable cultural and linguistic training their brigade received from faculty and students at Kansas State University's African Studies Center.