In a move that would have been deemed highly unlikely less than a year ago, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S Army Alaska the only active 4th Brigade in the U.S. Army, cased its colors for deployment instead of inactivation during a ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, September 8, 2017.
This marked the beginning of the Spartan brigade's fourth deployment and third to Afghanistan, this time as an integral part of Operation Resolute Support.
"It important to understand that just 9 months ago the future of this brigade was still quite unknown," said Col. Jason Jones, brigade commander. "Since then, the brigade has gone from being potentially inactivated to being told you're not only not going to be inactivated, we're now going to deploy to Afghanistan. Throughout all of this, the paratroopers standing before you remained unflappable."
The road to deployment included a last-minute training rotation at Joint Readiness Training Center in addition to multiple home station exercises and mission-specific training from units currently deployed to Afghanistan.
"Your training, your competence as a combined arms team and the lethal capabilities you can bring to bear uniquely qualify you to teach and mentor your Afghan partners in the art and science of war," said Col. Mark Colbrook, U.S. Army Alaska Deputy commander, sustainment. "Your mission in Afghanistan will be difficult and demanding, but make no mistake: You are ready."
The ceremony had no shortage of distinguished visitors, military and civilian. In attendance were the governor of Alaska, Bill Walker, Senator Dan Sullivan, Mark Begich, former Alaska state senator, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz, Mayor of Anchorage, Rep. Dan Sadler, Alaska state representative, and Sgt. Maj. Brian Stover, senior enlisted advisor of U.S. Army Alaska.
"There was nothing, and I mean nothing that was going to keep me away from attending this deployment ceremony of the 4/25," said Sen. Dan Sullivan, Alaska state senator.
Sen. Sullivan was introduced by Col. Colbrook as the reason why 4/25 is the most recognized brigade combat team in the U.S. senate. Sullivan, a Marine reservist, compared the differences between the Marines' "oohrah" and the army's "hooah," then tried to goad the paratroopers on the field into giving a hooah while at the position of parade rest and failed, much to the crowd's delight.
"When Gen. Milley made the final decision this year to retain the 4/25, he called this unit, quote, one of the most trained and ready units in the entire U.S. Army," Sullivan said. "I was just briefed a couple of days ago by Secretary of Defense Mattis and the chairman of the joint chiefs, Gen. Dunford, on the new Afghan strategy. They both underscored that the U.S. Military is sending only its best, top trained forces to Afghanistan. That's all of you."
Speakers during the ceremony recognized the deploying paratroopers standing on the field but also readily recognized those who would be sacrificing heavily during the deployment, the families of those approximately 2,100 soldiers going forward.
"Our families take on the burdens that no one else could ever imagine," Jones said. "To the wives, husbands, children, brothers and sisters, parents of the paratroopers, you are truly the unsung heroes of American national security. You might not be wearing the uniform but you're surely serving the nation through your personal sacrifices and separation from your loved ones. We salute you for your service to our country."
The Spartan Brigade will continue deploying paratroopers throughout the month with return planned in Summer 2018.