By Capt. Jason WelchJune 15, 2017
"What we carry, how we communicate, and what we ride into battle may evolve with technology, but soldiering is the same today as it was two hundred years ago," said Maj. Max Ferguson, the Task Force Toccoa commander.
Ferguson and task force Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, celebrated the U.S. Army's 242nd birthday while serving in Cameroon, June 14.
The 101st soldiers live at the contingency location in Garoua, situated on the Cameroonian air base, and are serving in a support role for the Cameroon military's fight against the violent extremist organization Boko Haram. They took time to recognize that their current efforts are part of the U.S. Army's long history.
"The Army birthday celebrates a continuing battle against tyranny," said Staff Sgt. James Jones, Bravo Company, 50th Expeditionary Support Battalion, 35th Signal Brigade.
"Serving in the Army is the greatest honor that any American can have, and I feel pride that I get to wear this uniform, because not everyone gets to," Jones said.
The soldiers celebrated the history of the Army and their own 101st Airborne lineage, but recognized their role in current and future Army operations.
"The Army's mission remains constant - defend our nation," Ferguson said. "But how we're accomplishing the mission has evolved.
"Junior leaders hold tremendous responsibility, leading Soldiers in the most remote areas of the world, representing the values and interests of the United States," he said. "We build partnerships, improve security, protect civilians, and remain ready to defeat our enemies in every type of environment."
Capt. Jeremy Latham, the Task Force Toccoa executive officer, said that this deployment to Cameroon was very different from tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"In my previous deployments, Soldiers were limited in their capacity to let their guard down enough to develop strong working relationships within local communities," Latham said. "Cameroon has allowed our forces to fill a stronger support role rather than being the tip of the spear in regional conflict."
"This operational environment has forced us to broaden our scope of responsibility and support the local populace and government as they build a stronger nation with shared values," said Latham.
Their mission in Cameroon reflects the broad scope of missions that the U.S. Army conducts globally.
"The Army mission today has become even more complex, relying on small unit operations that now can have profound impact on a political level," Latham said. "All leaders down to the individual Soldier must now be capable of conceptually understanding the mission at a national level. It is apparent that junior leaders are making decisions on the front line today that may have national ramifications."
For Latham, the current mission is also another example of how the Army has evolved over the last two centuries to capitalize on advances in technology and meet global needs.
"Units have become smaller and more versatile to meet a variety of demands dependent on a rapidly changing operational environment," said Latham. "As technology grows and the operational environment continues to change, the Army will continue to adapt to meet those operational needs and the global interests of the United States."
Soldiers of tomorrow will still be expected to uphold the ideals and demands of today, Ferguson said.
"Over the next two hundred years, U.S. Army Soldiers will still count on the soles of their feet, the strength of their backs, and the steadiness of their hands to bravely close with and destroy the enemy and control terrain," he said. "This is no different from the generations of Soldiers before us and [from] what the men and women of the U.S. Army continue to do today."