KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - The 7th Infantry Division, Combined Joint Task Force - 7, under the command of Brig. Gen. Paul Bontrager, assumed responsibility for Train, Advise and Assist Command - South from the 1st Cavalry Division, Combined Joint Task Force - 1, June 10 during a transfer of authority ceremony here.
Presiding over the ceremony was Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission. Campbell praised the 1st Cavalry Division for the work they accomplished over the past year under the leadership of Brig. Gen. Viet Luong.
"You and your 1st CAV command team have made an outsized impact upon our campaign," said Campbell. "You've been the point man for our momentous transition from combat operations to our new advisory role in Afghanistan's most critical and kinetic area of operations."
During their one-year tenure here, the 1st CAV transitioned from International Security Assistance Force Regional Command - South, to Train, Advise and Assist command - South, with the completion of the ISAF mission in December of 2014 and the start of the NATO Resolute Support mission. The division led the shift from a combat role to an advising role.
"In only a few short months, your team validated the advisory framework of Resolute Support," said Campbell. "Your advisers have served as vital links between our advisory efforts at the ministerial level in Kabul and the ANDSF operational units at the point of the spear in Kandahar province and beyond."
As of January 2015, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces have taken the lead in operations against insurgents, with TAAC-S supporting in an advisory role. Campbell discussed the recent ANDSF successes in western Maiwand and Northern Helmand as well as the continued operations in Zabul and Ghazni provinces.
"The ANDSF in the south have proven that when they work together, they cannot be defeated on the battlefield," said Campbell. "Your team deserves to take enormous pride in what the ANDSF have achieved thus far this fighting season ... the ANDSF's success is your success."
This was the second deployment to Afghanistan for the 1st CAV. Luong, the outgoing commander, also noted the successes of those under his command and that of their Afghan partners.
"This mission is as much about our Afghan partners who have taken on the awesome task of providing security for Afghanistan," said Luong. "Despite challenging times ahead, I'm awestruck by the progress I've seen in all measurable areas."
As Luong concluded his remarks, he passed on the responsibility of working side-by-side with the ANDSF to protect the Afghan people and pave the way to long-term stability to Bontrager and the 7th ID, Task Force Bayonet.
This will be the first tour in Afghanistan for the division, which was initially activated in December of 1917, and is also the division's first overseas tour since 1989 in support of Operation Just Cause in Panama, making the passing of the colors a significant event in the 7th ID's history.
The transfer of authority became official when Campbell passed the colors to Bontrager, a time-honored tradition demonstrating his confidence in the new commander's ability to handle the responsibility of command.
"You have my total confidence," said Campbell. "I know you will lead your 7th ID command team and TAAC-S well. The fate of this nation is at stake, and the challenges before you are formidable...I know you will tackle the inherent complexity of our Train, Advise, and Assist mission."
Shortly after receiving the colors, Bontrager thanked the 1st CAV, and addressed the assembled crowd and his command for the first time.
"It is an honor for the 7th Infantry Division, Task Force Bayonet, to join your ranks," he said. "We look forward to working with all our military and civilian coalition partners to continue the efforts toward long-term stability for Afghanistan."