By Staff Sgt. Derek M. SmithJune 12, 2012
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (June 12, 2012) -- The 411th Engineer Brigade officially took command and control of military engineering units throughout Afghanistan, June 4, in a transfer of authority ceremony here.
The incoming 411th En. Bde. assumed command of the engineering mission in Afghanistan from the 18th Engineer Brigade, Task Force Sword. The latter is returning to Karlsruhe, Germany, after completing its successful year-long tour here. Military engineering units throughout the country will ultimately fall under the 411th officially as Joint Task Force Empire. The task force name is derived from the brigade's home station of New Windsor, N.Y., the Empire State.
JTF Empire will continue the transition of U.S. engineering assets from all services to a single brigade command covering the entire country. The historic mission seeks to streamline engineering operations, synchronize combat and construction engineering effects and further develop Afghan National Army engineers into an effective and independent resource in the growth and security of Afghanistan.
Col. Paul M. Paolizzi, commander of the 18th En. Bde., took a moment to look back on TF Sword's mission in his farewell address during the ceremony.
"We built the foundation and the framework to work with the ANA (Afghan National Army) engineers," said Paolizzi, a native of Utica, N.Y. "We built bridges of trust with the regional commands. We built the foundation for long-term engineering planning. We reconstructed the brigade operating from a division level to a regional level and then to a theater level.
"We didn't just want to assume a mission and mark time. We are excited to know that we have made a difference. We are very proud of the success we made."
Paolizzi stressed the mission didn't end with his brigade's departure. The units under TF Sword's command remain, with more to follow in the coming months.
"Only the hilt of the sword is going to depart," explained Paolizzi. "But the steel; the business end is right here. They will stay. They will become part of Joint Task Force Empire and they can't wait to get back to the mission."
Consolidation of all military engineer units in country may seem like a daunting task to some, but to the Soldiers of the 411th En. Bde., it is a challenge they focused on for more than a year. Brig. Gen. David L. Weeks, commanding general of JTF Empire, accepted the task, expressing his focus and intent for the historic mission ahead.
"Today marks the culmination of many months of training and preparation," said Weeks, a resident of East Carroll Parish, La. "The next 90 to 120 days will be significant. We will transition to a single joint engineer brigade. Of the 17 engineer brigades representing all components of the United States Army and the Engineer Regiment, we will be the only engineer brigade in combat."
Both task force commanders agreed the success of the mission hinged on the ANA engineers.
"We will accelerate our efforts in the development of ANA engineers," reaffirmed Weeks. "We are the tip of the spear for the regiment. We intend to make a difference with our service here in Afghanistan. We will drive hard and we will not lose momentum. We will spearhead the engineer effort for (NATO's International Joint Command). Our families, our nation and our Army demand it."
The 411th En. Bde. bid farewell to the soldiers of the 18th En. Bde. with well-wishes, gratitude and a final vow from the commander of JTF Empire.
"You have made a difference; now it's our turn to make a difference and we will keep the faith."