BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - The soldiers of 16th Combat Aviation Brigade, 7th Infantry Division's Task Force Raptor officially uncased their colors during a Transfer of Authority ceremony at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, April 10, 2017.
TF Raptor replaces TF Victor of 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division as they complete their eight-month deployment.
"Over the past seven plus months, everywhere we had Coalition troops, everywhere we engaged the enemy and everywhere we provided assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, Task Force Victory was a ubiquitous overhead presence," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. JT Thomson, U.S. Forces Afghanistan deputy commanding general for support. "For friendlies it was comforting, for enemies it was detrimental, and for Afghanistan it was decisive."
In addition to soldiers from 1st CAB, TF Victory was a multi-component organization.
"The foundation of this magnificent task force is the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, but it was augmented by elements of the 3rd Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, 7th Infantry Division and 10th Mountain Division," said Thomson. "Also included were National Guard units from Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska as well as Army Reserve units from Colorado, Kentucky and Virginia. Altogether, a truly multi-compo, total Army team."
TF Victory aviators flew 36,000 hours during their deployment. They carried 32,000 passengers, moved 2.8 million pounds of cargo and performed 180 medical evacuations.
"With only 111 aircraft covering an expansive and unforgiving operational environment 24/7, the numbers are staggering," said Thomson. "The fact that this was done safely, efficiently and effectively makes it even more astounding."
In addition to moving passengers, carrying cargo and performing MEDEVACs, TF Victory had hundreds of enemy engagements during their time in Afghanistan.
"To our enemies, who opposed us over the past eight months, your resistance will ultimately prove futile as our Task Force Victory aircrews have proven on scores of occasions since we began operating in Afghanistan last year," said U.S. Army Col. John Cyrulik, TF Victory commander. "You would be wise to consider a different future before we may return to this country at a later date."
TF Raptor worked alongside TF Victory remotely from their home station for months and at Bagram Airfield for weeks to ensure a smooth transition.
"The relief in place and transition between Task Force Victory and Raptor has been executed exceedingly well, at echelon, with complete teamwork, transparency and a transferred knowledge of the operating environment, which is already enabling our soldiers and aviators to execute air-ground operations to the tremendously high standard Task Force Victory set," said U.S. Army Col. William Ryan, TF Raptor commander. "It is a tremendous honor and privilege today for the soldiers of Task Force Raptor to assume responsibility, and to join and serve alongside all of you and all of our incredible teammates at this important time in the history of our nation as well as here in Afghanistan."
"Already in the fight, we welcome the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Task Force Raptor trades the mountains of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest for the mountains of Afghanistan," said Thomson. "We are all confident that you will bring excellence in air-ground operations as we strengthen the stability and security of Afghanistan."
Like TF Victory, TF Raptor brings together soldiers from all Army components.
"The soldiers, leaders and aviators of Task Force Raptor, a proud total Army force of active, Army National Guard and Army Reserve, are absolutely dedicated to providing the most reliable, professional and decisive rotary wing aviation support possible to all supported units over the next seven months," said Ryan.
With the summer fighting season, a time that brings increased violence, fast approaching, TF Raptor begins its mission with the TF Victory team rooting them on from afar.
"While many of us would prefer fighting another season alongside our teammates, we take solace in the fact that we are being replaced by Task Force Raptor, an outstanding unit that has been highly trained, superbly equipped, and exceptionally well led," said Cyrulik.