CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - The 68th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, wrapped up a yearlong deployment and welcomed the 129th CSSB, Fort Campbell, Ky., during a transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, Oct. 31.
The "Stagecoach" Battalion handed over battle-space responsibilities to the 129th.
The 68th began its mission of providing logistical support and tactical sustainment to warfighters across Afghanistan under the 82nd Sustainment Brigade, from Fort Bragg, N.C., one year ago.
Initially based out of Bagram Airfield, the 68th later relocated south to Camp Leatherneck to fall under the 43rd upon the brigade's arrival in country.
During the deployment, the Soldiers received 15 Purple Heart medals and 161 combat action badges for their efforts across the battalion's battle space.
The 68th spent the last several months in Afghanistan supporting increasingly demanding missions due to the troop surge through the summer. Despite the demands placed on the battalion, Col. Edward M. Daly, commander, 43rd SB, said the 68th CSSB executed its mission flawlessly.
"You have truly made a lasting impression and impact on operations," said Daly. "Your efforts and courage and selfless service are absolutely phenomenal and tremendously appreciated by all who have enjoyed your support."
Col. Thomas A. Rivard, the 68th CSSB commander, expressed great pride in the professionalism and mission-first attitude his staff steadfastly exhibited during its deployment.
"This is the best deployment I've ever been a part of. I am proud of each of you. We focused on the mission; we took care of Soldiers," said Rivard.
Rivard said its tight relationship with 43rd SB gave the battalion significant confidence.
"In March, we made the final transition to our home station higher headquarters of the 43rd Sustainment Brigade Rough Riders," said Rivard. "In so doing, we re-established staff and command processes that worked so well at Fort Carson."
Having first-hand knowledge of the battalion's mission capability and Soldier readiness was a factor in enabling the 68th to serve as a "fire-and-forget battalion," said Daly.
"You have operated in a tough counter-insurgency environment," said Daly. "An environment that spans over 95,000 square miles, providing command and control for combat logistics convoys that have driven over 1 million miles to deliver more than 75,000 short-tons of cargo to dozens of forward operating bases supported by the Rough Riders.
"Your professionalism ... is quite frankly the best I have ever seen."
This was the battalion's first deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and its second tour since being officially redesignated as a combat sustainment support battalion in 2006.
Rivard shared some final words with his Soldiers before officially handing the reins to the 129th CSSB.
"Our Soldiers set high standards in this theater," said Rivard, "and it is a testament to your leadership and your discipline. All of you represented the 68th and the 43rd Sustainment Brigade with your stewardship every day.
Following the transfer of authority ceremony, the Soldiers of the 68th CSSB gathered together as Command Sgt. Maj. Colvin Bennett, 68th CSSB command sergeant major, shared some heartfelt words of his own.
"Being in charge of such an outstanding group of non-commissioned officers has made this time, this deployment." After a brief moment of speechlessness, Bennett said "This is the only job in the world that can make a grown man cry. And if you guys don't understand that, wait until you get where I am, and you'll see. You'll see the love that you have for your Soldiers.
"I lead with my heart," Bennett concluded. "I am one of the proudest command sergeants major in the United States Army, and all of this is because of you."