By Pfc. Mary L. GonzalezApril 11, 2008
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - On the 101st day of 2008, the headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) officially became Combined Joint Task Force - 101 and took over the Regional Command - East sector of Afghanistan from the 82nd Airborne Division.
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, commander of the 101st Airborne and CJTF-101, praised the 82nd Airborne for their effective service over the past 15 months to improve the lives of the Afghan people, and promised to continue in that mission.
"We pledge to work together with our Coalition and Afghan partners in an effort to build a strong government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan... to improve the quality of life for the people of Afghanistan who have seen too much violence and terror over the last 30 years," Schloesser said during transfer of authority ceremony.
He added that the transition of authority reflects the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance, the International Security Assistance Force and the U.S. government's total commitment to the security and prosperity of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
"The purpose of the ceremony today is not about words," said Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, outgoing commander of RC-East and commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. "It is about better opportunities for the future of the Afghan people and it is about the Coalition's enduring commitment to this nation."
Since the Taliban era, there are 8,000 more schools and 140,000 more teachers, Rodriguez said.
About 70 percent of the girls and 97 percent of the boys in RC-East now have access to a state-sponsored education, as well as access to basic healthcare that has increased to nearly 80 percent, he said, resulting in a 25-percent reduction in infant mortality, adding up to about 90,000 lives.
"All of that is a large investment in a prosperous future for Afghanistan," Rodriguez stated.
"We pledge that we will continue to support the Afghan National Security Forces as they provide security for the Afghan people by working together with our Coalition and alliance partners and interagency organizations," Schloesser said.
RC-East covers 14 provinces in eastern Afghanistan, bordering Pakistan.
This transfer of authority also marked the first time since World War II that the two well-known Army divisions have replaced each other on the battlefield.
The 101st Airborne Division, known as the "Screaming Eagles," is based out of Fort Campbell, Ky. About 7,200 Soldiers from the division's headquarters, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and 101st Sustainment Brigade are now serving in Afghanistan as part of CJTF 101. The division's 1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams are currently deployed to Iraq.
Additional RC-East Facts:
Aca,!Ac An estimated 8.9 million people live in RC-East
Aca,!Ac RC East is 124,675 square kilometers, roughly the size of Georgia and South Carolina
Aca,!Ac There are seven ethnic groups in RC-East
Aca,!Ac RC-East shares 450 miles of border with Pakistan
Aca,!Ac Thirteen Provincial Reconstruction Teams are working in RC-East