The Defense Department announced Feb. 14 the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, located in Italy, will deploy to Afghanistan this Spring. This Army brigade combat team previously was scheduled to deploy for Operation Iraqi Freedom, but will deploy instead to Afghanistan. The unit and U.S. Army Europe officials notified the Soldiers and their families earlier this week.

This deployment affects an Army brigade combat team and sustains the United States' current commitment to Afghanistan, providing a replacement for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, which was extended Jan. 25 for up to 120 days. While this is a change in location for the unit's deployment, the planned deployment's timing remains the same. A modular brigade combat team varies in number from 3,200 to 3,800 Soldiers, depending on the nature of the mission and its associated task-force missions.

The United States is the NATO International Security Assistance Force's largest troop contributor in Afghanistan, training and equipping the Afghan national security forces and assisting with reconstruction. Force levels in Afghanistan are conditions-based and will be determined in consultation with the Afghan government and NATO.

The Army continues to be completely supportive of Army families touched by the war's needs. Without our families' steadfast and unrelenting support, Soldiers would not be ready for combat, Army officials say. Using the Army's time-tested Family Readiness Group organizations, unit and installation commanders and their staffs are ensuring families are fully supported while their Soldiers are away.

With a rich history dating back to 1917, the troopers of the 173d Airborne Brigade wear their combat badges and decorations with pride. Today's Sky Soldiers continue the distinction of honored service dating back to World War I, World War II and Vietnam. They proudly represent the airborne fighting spirit with deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, Hungary, Tunisia, Morocco, Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic, and more.
Sky Soldiers serving in Vietnam received 13 Medals of Honor, 32 Distinguished Service Crosses, 1,736 Silver Stars and over 6,000 Purple Hearts. There are more 1,790 Sky Soldiers' names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C.

The Defense Department and the U.S. Army will continue to announce major unit deployments as they are identified and told. For information, please contact Army Public Affairs at (703) 692-2000.