Unit standard cased, prepared to deploy with ‘Highlanders’ to Afghanistan
Spc. Brandon A. Bednarek,
4th BCT, 1st AD Public Affairs:
For the second time in more than a year, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, gathered to case their brigade colors Friday to represent their Afghanistan deployment to advise and assist security forces in the eastern part of the country.
The ceremony, which was held at the Fort Bliss and Old Ironsides Museums, paralleled the historical significance behind the casing of a unit’s colors. Taking from the traditions of the earliest warriors, the Army established colors for each of its units to serve as both a distinct identifier in battle and a rallying point for troops. When a unit deploys to combat, their colors are cased and travel with them to theater where they represent the unit’s history, honor and esprit de corp, said Col. Terry P Cook, brigade commander.
“Today’s color-casing ceremony marks the departure of the remainder of the brigade’s Security Force Advise and Assist Teams in support of Operation Enduring Freedom,” he said.
The Highlanders’ latest tour comes only nine months after the brigade uncased its colors and officially returned from its deployment to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.
“In the fall of 2011, our political leadership made a decision that it was time for the coalition forces to begin stepping back and letting Afghan forces take the lead on the battlefield,” said Cook.
With the intent to withdraw all troops by 2014, the ISAF introduced the security force assistance concept to accomplish that particular mission. Unlike Operation Iraqi Freedom, however, brigades deploying to Afghanistan were not being trained to execute the advisory mission, he continued.
In order to bridge that gap and allow the Army to fully train entire brigades for the new role, it hand-selected three brigades to help undertake the change in mission. The Highlanders, who were still deployed to Iraq, were one of the three units chosen to serve as a security force assistance brigade in Afghanistan, said Cook.
“Their mission, at the end of the day, is an operational and tactical mission, but it has strategic implications,” said Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss commander.
The SFAAT teams, which contain the unit’s battle-tested and well-trained senior combat veterans, will spend roughly the next 270 days advising and assisting the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army at the battalion, brigade and corp level, said Pittard.
The successful conclusion of American operations in Afghanistan will be a direct result of the unit’s SFAAT involvement in helping Afghan Security Forces independently manage security of their country, he said.
While the unit embarks on its mission overseas it will also continue its mission of training the nearly 2,000 Soldiers still remaining at Fort Bliss, with Lt. Col. Jeffrey Merenkov, deputy commanding officer, and Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Clark, brigade command sergeant major, leading the Highlanders from the rear-detachment position.
“The Highlanders stand well trained and ready for the upcoming mission,” said Cook. “Our job will not be easy and will hold many more challenges than this last year, but I have the utmost faith and confidence that we will succeed.”
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