News: Spartan brigade departs Afghanistan for the last time
Story by Capt. John Landry
PAKTIA PROVINCE, Afghanistan – For the fourth and final time since the their inception the Spartans of 3rd Brigade Combat, 10th Mountain Division, have completed a deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and transferred command authority of Training Advise and Assist Command – Southeast to Fort Hood’s 3rd Cavalry Regiment July 19, 2014.
The Spartan commander, Col. Sam Whitehurst, completed the brigade’s final historic deployment in Regional Command – East’s TAAC-SE spending nine months training, advising and assisting the Afghan National Security Forces in Khost, Paktika, Paktia, Ghazni, Logar and Wardak provinces of Afghanistan.
The Spartans had a particularly close relationship with the Afghan Army’s 203rd Corps and even shared multiple forward operating bases with them throughout the area of operations which fostered lifelong friendships.
While giving his speech at the transfer of authority ceremony, Whitehurst thanked Maj. Gen. Mohammad Yaftali, the 203rd Corps Afghan Army commander.
“Not only have you been a great friend to me and to the Spartan Brigade, but it has been an honor learning from you as a professional officer and a leader” said Whitehurst.
Over the past nine months, 3BCT Soldiers enabled those they coached and mentored through many successful operations aimed at securing Afghans, such as the Loya Jirga that approved the Bilateral Security Agreement, the Ghazni Islamic Festival and both sets of national elections. Their elections have ultimately paved the way for the country’s fast approaching first democratic transition of power.
The Afghan National Security Forces have met every challenge and were described by Whitehurst as a “beacon for the future” of Afghanistan and a “rallying point” for the people.
The Spartan Brigade’s last mission was fitting for a unit that was created for and has spent more than four years of its almost 10 year existence in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. This advising focused mission was new to the Spartans but appropriate for a unit with such a storied history in Afghanistan.
Whitehurst described it as different from deployments in the past, but no less important. This essential mission set was the next phase for the development of their security forces during a pivotal time of transition as NATO continues to withdraw its forces.
However, one eye has always been focused on the precedent set by past Spartan Soldiers did during previous deployments to help guide this final deployment.
“We tend to judge our accomplishments by those of our predecessors, and the Spartan predecessors would be equally proud,” added Whitehurst.
Although the Spartans have been selected for inactivation by the Department of the Army, they will forever remain at the forefront of the history of the 10th Mountain Division’s history. The Spartan statue in front of the division’s headquarters at Fort Drum, New York, immortalizes those who paid for freedom with their lives, as well as the unit’s sole Medal of Honor recipient, Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti.
With four deployments across Ghazni, Wardak, Paktika, Paktia, Khost, Logar, and Kandahar provinces, the Spartans have helped make Afghanistan what it is today and their legacy will forever be tied to its current and future successes.
“The future of Afghanistan is a bright one, and we are grateful to have played a part,” said Whitehurst.