PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan —Task Force Falcon, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, assumed Army aviation operations, for eastern and northern Afghanistan, marked by a Transfer of Authority ceremony May 19, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. During the ceremony, TF Falcon officially relieved TF Destiny’s 101st CAB, which flew over 130,000 hours during its 9-month deployment.
Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, Combined Joint Task Force – 101 and Regional Command – East commander, lauded TF Destiny’s performance in Afghanistan, during the TOA ceremony.
“While operating in some of the most challenging terrain and weather, across both Regional Command – East and Regional Command – North, you supported both Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition Forces, as well as a variety of Special Operations, through the execution of numerous air assaults, close combat attacks, Counter-Improvised Explosive Device operations, personnel recovery, armed escort, convoy security, and numerous other operations too many to name,” McConville said. “Your efforts have enabled Afghan success, and the success of the International Security Assistance Force.”
Maj. Gen. McConville then welcomed Task Force Falcon, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, to the CJTF-101, and to the mission handed over to them by TF Destiny.
“We are very pleased to have the great 10th Combat Aviation Brigade joining us in RC-East and we know they come highly trained, disciplined and fit and ready to pick up where the 101 CAB left off,” he said. “Col. Francis, you and your aviators know you are joining us at a very critical time in this campaign. The summer fighting season is upon us and the Afghan National Security Forces are pressing the offensive.”
Leading up to its current 9-month scheduled deployment, Falcon Brigade provided both general and direct support to the 10th Mountain Infantry Division during four Combined Training Center rotations, two High Altitude Mountainous Environment Training cycles, and three Command Post Exercises. The brigade also supported Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, the Presidential Inauguration, while completing aerial gunnery proficiency training and the fielding of the UH60 Mike model helicopter.
“Today marks the beginning of the Falcon Brigade’s fourth deployment to Afghanistan, its fifth in the war on terror,” said Col. David J. Francis, TF Falcon and 10th CAB commander. “We will never forget the events that led our nation to war here, but we are also ready to assume this mission in a strategic environment that is different than at any other time in this war and at a crucial time period for the future of this country. The warriors of the 10th CAB will take on the challenges that lie ahead, we will fight and we will win!”
Task Force Falcon is comprised of TF Tigershark, 1-10 Aviation Regiment; TF Knighthawk, 2-10 Aviation Regiment; TF Phoenix, 3-10 General Support Aviation Battalion; all from Fort Drum, NY. The task force is augmented by TF Dragon, 1-501st Aviation Regiment, 1st Armored Division CAB of Fort Bliss, Texas; and TF Iron Warrior 1-104 ARB Pennsylvania National Guard.
PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flies over mountains of eastern Afghanistan during a passenger movement mission May 11, 2013. The flight crew was comprised of members from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade. The 10th CAB will relieve the 101st CAB, which is nearing the end of its 9-month deployment and will provide aviation support to Afghan and coalition forces throughout eastern Afghanistan. This is 10th CAB’s fourth deployment to Afghanistan.
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Between now and the end of 2014, International Security Assistance Forces will pull most of their troops out of Afghanistan, but one military leader said leaving the country should not be considered ISAF’s primary mission.
“We can get all of our equipment out of this country and still fail,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Knowlton, chief of plans, Combined Joint Planning Cell, Combined Joint Task Force – 101 and Regional Command East. “If we do not get the Afghan National Security Forces to stand on their own, if we do not get them integrated…we will fail.”
Retrograding out of Afghanistan is just a task to be accomplished, Knowlton said. The primary mission is to stabilize the Afghan government and seamlessly step back while Afghans take control of their country.
“We really have a common goal here, and the common goal is to improve the quality of life for the Afghan people,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James McConville, commanding general, Combined Joint Task Force – 101 and Regional Command East. “And part of that is getting them to a sufficient level of security where they can have a stable government.”
Coalition representatives from Jordan, Egypt, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Korea, Poland, France, Turkey and the U.S. gathered to examine the drawdown of international military forces and discuss plans for the future at Bagram Airfield, April 30.
“The most important thing we have to do in Afghanistan is to help the Afghan people,” said Col. Tomasz Piotrowski, deputy commander of Task Force White Eagle. Task Force White Eagle is Poland’s military contribution to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.
To that end, representatives reviewed what their presence has achieved in the past years and how best to proceed based on the lessons they’ve learned.
Improved health care, education, agriculture and national security highlighted the discussion. Representatives from each nation explained what they have done to improve Afghanistan and what can still be done as ISAF proceeds with the drawdown in the coming months.
They discussed the numerous schools and hospitals ISAF has built, as well as the plans to complete further construction and development projects before their time in Afghanistan comes to a close.
Due in large part to their efforts, currently about 8 million kids are going to school in Afghanistan, and about 18 million people have cell phones that help expose them to new knowledge every day, McConville said.
He added that the economy has been improving 8 to 9 percent throughout the last few years.
“There are a lot of things still to be done in Afghanistan, but there are a lot of things going well,” McConville said.
At the same time, Jordanian Col. Basem Al-Aween said that ISAF needs to handle its interactions with the Afghan people with more cultural sensitivity than it has in the past. Winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans cannot happen without continued awareness of and respect for their religion and culture, he said.
“You can’t win the minds and hearts of any people in the world if you don’t understand their culture,” Al-Aween said.
The leaders said their nations plan to maintain a decreased military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, but for many the precise numbers and nature of their presence is still a question mark.
By Knowlton’s assessment, the ANSF will be strong enough to secure the country on its own by the time ISAF leaves Afghanistan.
More than 80 percent of ANSF in RC-East are currently operating independently, Knowlton said, a statistic that’s making it more difficult for insurgents to sustain their war cry against ISAF as foreign occupiers.
“The insurgents are no longer fighting infidels,” Knowlton said. “They’re no longer fighting foreign occupiers. They’re no longer fighting invaders. They are fighting Afghans, and that is a very different dynamic and a very hard narrative for them to overcome.”
The growing strength of ANSF is also increasing insugents’ difficulty in continuing their fight. With increased proficiency in combat and security operations, the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police are now too powerful for insurgents to defeat through military strength, Knowlton said.
Insurgents still hold the advantage in some geographical areas and may be successful in attacking isolated ANSF elements, but ANSF cannot be defeated by violence, Knowlton said.
“As long as ([ANSF]) has support from the international community, they will be successful,” Knowlton said. “It may be bloody, it may not look like what we would do, but they are going to be able to hold the line.”
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Lt. Gen. Jeffery Talley, chief, Army Reserve, and commanding general, United States Army Reserve Command, stood at the head of more than 500 service members on Bagram Airfield shortly after sunrise.
Chief Warrant Officer 5 Phyllis Wilson, command chief warrant officer, Army Reserve, and Command Sgt. Maj. James Lambert, interim command sergeant major, Army Reserve, stood with Talley in the crowd.
They had come for a birthday party.
Talley, Lambert and Wilson helped service members at Bagram Airfield celebrate the Army Reserve’s 105th birthday, April 25.
They partied in true Army fashion: with an early morning, 5-km. run on a muddy road.
Live music from the Air Assault Band, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), helped pump up the runners well before the race’s 6 a.m. start time on the chilly morning, while the Bagram Batman, Bagram’s caped-and-cowled public servant, posed for pictures and high-fived runners along the route.
The American Red Cross handed out water during the race and provided free breakfast afterward for the soaked and mud-splattered runners.
“It looked like fun,” said Sgt. Eddie Gonzalez, military policeman, 382nd Military Police Detachment, based in San Diego, who helped handle security during the race. “I wish I could have been out there, getting all muddy like everyone else did.”
Gonzalez, who served on active duty, turned to the Reserve in order to enter the civilian world without having to leave the military life behind.
“I joined the Reserve to get away from the active-duty lifestyle a little bit, try to do something else,” Gonzalez said. “Part of me just didn’t want to leave the military, so I joined the Reserve.”
So far, there hasn’t been much of a difference, he said.
“It definitely is a little different,” he said. “But it has the same mindset, camaraderie and leadership traits. Everything you learn in active duty is still there.”
Being a military policeman wasn’t always an option in the Reserve. The Reserve was founded April 23, 1908 as the Medical Reserve Corps, a reserve force of doctors to be called upon when needed.
Today, the Reserve’s 205,000 Soldiers work in 148 diverse military occupational specialty fields, from the medical sector to logistics, intelligence and civil affairs.
The array of Reserve units on Bagram Airfield illustrates the diverse force the Reserve has become since its inception. On base are units that specialize in cargo transfer, retrograde support, transportation, law enforcement and postal service, to name a few.
The Reserve may look different today than it did at its inception more than a century ago, but the idea behind it is still the same: when the nation needs Soldiers, Reservists step out of their civilian shoes and into their combat boots.
“We are citizen-soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Phillip Churn, brigade commander for the 333rd Military Police Brigade out of Farmingdale, N.Y. “We answer the call to duty, just like our forefathers did before us. We drop what we’re doing, we leave home and go where we’re needed.”
The dual nature of a Reservist allows the Army to benefit from the professional skills of men and women from all different walks of life, Churn said.
“The Army Reserve allows Americans to continue to serve their country,” Churn said. “It gives us the best of both worlds. We have our civilian lives, our families and our work, but then even when we’re back at home, that one weekend a month, a couple weeks out of the summer, we get to go out and we get to do something that we enjoy. And then when we’re called into service, we will excel.”
Wilson applauded the dedication of today’s Reservists during her visit to Bagram. Since 9/11, more than 210,000 men and women have joined the Reserve, and the future of the organization looks very bright, she said.
Talley echoed her comments, saying that the Soldiers he leads have done well in making the Reserve the respected force he sees today.
“Everywhere I go, whether it’s in the U.S. or abroad, everybody loves the Army Reserve,” Talley said to the gathered Reservists. “And it’s because of Soldiers like you.”
Talley’s visit ended with a reenlistment ceremony and a townhall meeting, where he held a question-and-answer session.
Afterward, Talley, Wilson and Lambert helped the Reservists finish the day’s celebration with the cutting of the all-important birthday cake.
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Maj. Dewayne Bramlett, occupational therapist prevention officer–in-charge, 85th Combat Operational Stress Control Detachment, Task Force Medical-Afghanistan, addresses fellow service members on the traumatic effects sexual assault can have on a victim, the signs that can indicate that a person was a victim, and ways to provide help to a victim, during a forum at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Clamshell tent, April 23.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness month throughout the Department of Defense. Holding events such as this are another method the DoD uses to drive home the message that sexual assault and sexual harassment are crimes and will not be tolerated.
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