By Capt. Matthew E McMillan (1st CAV)January 10, 2015
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - The leadership of Train, Advise, Assist Command - South (TAAC-S) passed from Brig. Gen. Douglas Gabram to Brig. Gen. Viet Luong Jan. 10 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.
Gabram, the outgoing commander, handed over leadership to Luong, who recently deployed from Fort Hood, Texas, where he serves as the Deputy Commanding General - Maneuver for the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division based at that post.
"I am extremely proud and honored to be part of the Combined Joint Task Force - 1 team," said Gabram. "There is no doubt that they have made a lasting impact on our partnered forces, both army and police, and on the citizens of Afghanistan. Every day we have to strive to make it matter for the Afghan national security forces."
TAAC-S's primary mission is to advise Afghan forces and to aid in development of the security and governance of Afghanistan. The unit is comprised of service members drawn mostly from the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division and 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, Ky.
"It's very special for me to have the 101st on our team, having served three previous combat tours with this historic division," said Gabram.
Stationed at Kandahar Airfield near Kandahar City, the command has been deployed since the summer of 2014.
"I am proud to take command of this unit," said Luong. "The successes the service members have accomplished speak for themselves, and the impact is very real."
The command transitioned last year from Regional Command - South, its former designation, to TAAC-S, indicative of the adapting role of the unit and its mission.
During Gabram's tenure, the command maintained close relationships with the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army. The closeness of those partnerships helped to significantly improve the security situation in western Kandahar province and posture their forces for the 2015 fighting season.
Notably, the Afghan organizations formed a joint quick response force, coordinating across their respective branches with a successful military objective. Quick response forces are dedicated military units that respond in cases of emergency during combat.
The command's partnered efforts also included the Kandahar Provincial Governor Tooryalai Wesa, with whom Gabram and senior members of his command met regularly.
In the sustainment field, the command successfully transitioned hundreds of short tons of equipment and more than half its personnel out of the country, as part of the larger drawdown last year. The drawdown continues during its new mission.
Looking ahead, the unit faces an evolving future.
Luong's assumption of command comes at a notable transition point in the NATO role in Afghanistan. Recently, the overall mission officially transitioned from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) role to the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) role.
Under Resolute Support, the focus is on continuing Afghan forces' development, securing and positioning Resolute Support personnel to complete their mission, and enabling the Afghan national security forces at the ministerial, institutional and operational level.
"2015 is a critical year for Afghanistan," said Luong. "We in TAAC-S will make the deliberate shift to functionally-based security force assistance, and we will enable our partners to succeed. I have no doubt in the abilities of our Soldiers or of our Afghan partners."
Functionally-based security force assistance is the framework Resolute Support uses to delineate and define its efforts. It focuses on advising in eight essential functions, including transparency, accountability, and oversight; sustainment, and civilian governance.
Under the program, NATO advisors working in specific fields are partnered with Afghan personnel working in related occupations. The two elements keep in contact and share information on their efforts.
"Brigadier General Doug Gabram and his team have done a tremendous job in an extremely challenging environment," said Maj. Gen. Michael A. Bills, 1st Cavalry Division commanding general. "The expertise and professionalism of our TAAC-South Troopers is evident in the continued growth and professional development of our ANSF partners, who are keeping the pressure on the Taliban in Southern Afghanistan. I'm extremely proud of the job everyone has done and will continue to do as part of the Resolute Support mission."