By Staff Sgt. John EtheridgeOctober 14, 2014
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - International Security Assistance Force in southern Afghanistan ushered in a new era during a ceremony held on Kandahar Airfield to commemorate the transition of Regional Command-South to Train Advise and Assist Command-South, Oct. 14, 2014.
As part of the ceremony, both the 1st Cavalry Division colors and the colors of Commander, Kandahar Airfield were cased, signifying the beginning of the TAAC-South mission.
Although the casing of the colors technically represents the end of the 1st Cav. Div.'s mission at RC-South, the First Team is leaving a contingent of Soldiers in Afghanistan to initiate the TAAC-South mission, commanded by Brig. Gen. Douglas Gabram, who has been serving as deputy commander of Combined Joint Task Force-1 and RC-South.
In his speech, Maj. Gen. Michael Bills, commanding general of 1st Cav. Div. and RC-South's final commanding officer, spoke about the successful relationship between the 16 different partner nations of RC-South and their Afghan partners.
"We effectively worked hand-in-hand with our Afghan security force counterparts who took the fight to the Taliban and denied them success in Kandahar at every turn," he said. "We stand with you as you continue to build your dedicated team of professionals. I appreciate all of the work and many sacrifices your army soldiers, police and airmen made for this nation."
Bills also spoke of the massive and successful effort made by coalition partners in reducing the RC-South footprint with the numerous base closures and transfers in preparation for the transition to TAAC-South.
"The time for that transition has come, but it took and endless amount of professionalism and energy to bring us to this important point in time," said Bills.
Following his speech, Bills and Command Sgt. Maj. Andrew Barteky, the 1st Cav. command sergeant major, cased the division's colors to take back to Fort Hood, Texas.
Both Bills and Barteky received the Bronze Star Medal at the ceremony for their service to RC-South.
After the casing of the 1st Cav. Div. colors, Air Force Maj. Gen. John McMullen, commander, NATO Air Command-Afghanistan, addressed the audience. As he spoke, he recounted the history of COMKAF from its beginning in 2007 until the present time. He also listed off some accomplishments of COMKAF under the final commander and senior noncommissioned officer, Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Fantini and Command Chief Master Sgt. Eric Johnson. Those accomplishments included leading a multinational force of 24,000 military members, civilians, and contractors charged with installation airfield operations, integrated base defense, force protection and logistical operations. For their service to COMKAF, Fantini was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal, and Johnson was awarded the Bronze Star Medal.
"In my opinion, they've exceeded all expectations in mission and also in right-sizing the base for the follow on Resolute Support (Mission)," said McMullen.
Before the casing of the COMKAF colors, Fantini, also addressed the crowd. He acknowledged the efforts of the personnel and military forces from 20 nations that came together at Kandahar Airfield and provided logistical, information, surveillance, and air support to coalition forces during Operating Enduring Freedom.
"As the COMKAF mission comes to a close, realize that the security in and around Kandahar is at an all time high," said Fantini. "This is a testament to the fact that the transition of responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces is working."
He also spoke of the successful working relationship between the NATO partners.
"It's amazing to see how so many countries can come together with a shared common purpose to defeat the Taliban threat and to train, advise and assist our Afghan partners to keep that threat suppressed," he said. "NATO and ISAF works, and specifically it works incredibly well for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, civilians, coalition partners and Afghan Partners."
After his speech, Fantini and Johnson cased the COMKAF colors, formally ending their mission and handing KAF over to TAAC-South.