173rd returns to Logar, Wardak Provinces
Less than two years after leaving Afghanistan’s Logar and Wardak provinces, the Sky soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, based out of Vicenza, Italy, have returned.
The 173rd officially replaced 3rd IBCT, 1st Armored Division, Task Force Bulldog, during a transfer of authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base Shank, July 17, 2012.
Task Force 3-1 has made great strides in the area and improved the relationship with their ANSF partners, as well as helped the ANSF increase their capabilities across the provinces, said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Mayville, Jr., commander of Combined Joint Task Force-1, which oversees Regional Command-East.
After addressing the accomplishments of the Bulldog brigade, Mayville, a former commander of the 173rd, turned his attention to the Sky soldiers. He welcomed them back to Logar and Wardak and provided words of wisdom, preparing them for the road ahead.
Though the 173rd was deployed to Logar and Wardak previously, the brigade, led by U.S. Army Col. Andrew Rohling, is facing a significantly different mission. Enabling the transfer of security of the two provinces to the Afghan National Security Forces.
“Today’s transition ceremony is meaningful for many reasons,” said U.S. Army Col. Mark Landes, commander of TF Bulldog, as he addressed the crowd made up of international and Afghan allies. “For the Bulldogs, it marks the completion of our mission in Operation Enduring Freedom.
“For the Sky soldiers, it marks the start of your mission,” he continued. “Having been around the battlefield, I can see that you are ready, you’ve trained hard, your leaders are dedicated, and your troops are motivated.”
After Landes, Rohling took the podium to thank the Bulldog brigade for their hard work and assure all in attendance that there is no one better to replace them than the Sky soldiers of the 173rd.
“The great strides Wardak and Logar provinces have made since the brigade departed here 18 months ago are in no small part due to the hard work and sacrifice of the Bulldog brigade,” he said. “The Bulldogs’ tireless pursuit of the enemy has been the hallmark of their deployment.”
“As I told our families as we cased these colors in Italy, it is my unabashedly biased opinion that the Army did well in choosing to send ‘The Herd’ back to Afghanistan,” he said.
As the Bulldogs depart theater, they leave behind an increasingly Afghan-secured area of operations.
“Besides the two brigades transitioning, there is a larger transition taking place,” said Landes. “Just last week, a tranche ceremony not far from here marked the Logar provincial government and Afghan National Security Forces’ assumption of security responsibility for Pul-e-Alam.”
The hard work of TF Bulldog has given the 173rd a running start to their fifth deployment since 2003 as the Sky soldiers take over and prepare for the complete transition of the security of Afghanistan to the ANSF.
“Over the course of the next several months, we hope to capitalize on those gains as together we move toward our 2014 transition,” said Rohling. “We begin this deployment trained and ready to meet any challenge and complete any mission.”
“This is a brigade who knows how to fight, how to win, how to take care of soldiers and how to work hand-in-hand with our Afghan counterparts,” he said.
“I thank the great Bulldog team, Mark Landes and Command Sgt. Maj. Capps and welcome the mighty Sky soldiers of the 173rd,” said Mayville.
Article by Sgt. Michael Sword, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team