News: TF Dragon passes the torch to 10th CAB's Tigersharks
Story by Capt. Peter Smedberg
NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The 1st Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion of the 501st Aviation Regiment, Task Force Dragon, attached to 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, marked the end to their nine-month deployment, with a transfer of authority ceremony Oct. 11, at Forward Operating Base Fenty, Afghanistan.
During the ceremony, TF Dragon commander, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Glen Heape, thanked his soldiers for their hard work and dedication during what is being described as the most critical fighting season in the history of the U.S.’s involvement in Afghanistan.
“Task Force Dragon has served honorably on behalf of their nation, and enhanced the sacred trust that exists between Army Aviation and the units we support,” said U.S. Army Col. David Francis, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade commander. “Task Force Dragon provided discriminately lethal fires, time-on-target air assaults, and tactical overmatch that can’t be replicated by any other force or capability on the battlefield.”
TF Dragon also took a moment to recognize the sacrifices made by U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Matthew Ruffner and U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jarett Yoder, two AH-64 Apache helicopter pilots from the Pennsylvania National Guard who were killed in a helicopter crash April 9, 2013, in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, while serving under TF Dragon.
During the ceremony, the 1st Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Tigershark, commanded by U.S. Army Lt. Col. Chad Ward, assumed responsibility for all aviation operations in the N2KL (Nangarhar, Nuristan, Konar, and Laghman Provinces) region of Afghanistan.
Ward and his Soldiers are no strangers to Afghanistan. TF Tigershark recently completed an impressive move of their task force headquarters from Forward Operating Base Salerno, to Forward Operating Base Fenty, in support of 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, while providing continuous aviation support to Regional Command-East.
Task Force Tigershark’s relocation to Forward Operating Base Fenty
According to U.S. Army Maj. Jonathan Easley, TF Tigershark executive officer, TF Tigershark’s relocation to Forward Operating Base Fenty was a massive undertaking executed flawlessly by Ward and his Soldiers while continuously providing rotary wing air support to commanders on the ground from multiple brigade combat teams.
“Unlike a normal relief in place where the incoming unit is going from a cold start, already having six months of experience in country has helped the task force (Tigershark) hit the ground running,” said Easley. “Morale has remained high as we have transitioned to (Jalalabad Airfield); the reception from Dragon has been phenomenal and the Tigershark troopers have been able to get after the mission at hand in the N2KL (Nangarhar, Nuristan, Konar, Laghman Provinces) region with renewed vigor.”
TF Tigershark executed this relocation while supporting elements from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, as well as the 2nd and 4th Brigade Combat Teams from the 10th Mountain Division.
With any large scale relocation effort, maintaining property accountability can be a daunting task.
“As always, property accountability can make or break a relief in place; detailed involvement by the logistics officer, 1st Lt. Andrew Lang, logistics section noncommissioned officer-in-charge, Sgt. 1st Class Tanya Green-Johnson, and the company supply representatives ensured a smooth process” said Easley.
During the transition from Salerno to Fenty, TF Tigershark’s Forward Support Company conducted the retrograde of two well-established forward arming and refueling points (FARPs) while planning the establishment of a third FARP to be staffed by members of 2nd Battalion (Assault), TF Knighthawk, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade.
Of note during Tigershark’s move to Forward Operating Base Fenty is the outstanding support provided by members of the task force’s communication section.
“Much like oxygen, nobody really worries about communications until they don’t have it,” said Easley. “Our S-6 section has made it a certainty that there are always redundant communications available.”
Much like Tigershark’s FSC’s effort to close and relocate FARPs, their communications section supported the teardown of communications systems at closing bases, while facilitating the rebuild of systems in their new area of operations.
Easley described the relocation and rebuild of Tigershark’s robust communications systems as a herculean task made possible by the can-do attitude and personal involvement down to the individual Soldier level.
The support provided by numerous agencies and adjacent task forces during Tigershark’s move to Forward Operating Base Fenty, as well as the superb effort by Tigershark Soldiers, have set the conditions for success during the final three months of the 10th CAB’s deployment to Afghanistan.
Task Force Tigershark, as well as the rest of the 10th CAB, are scheduled to return to Fort Drum, N.Y., in January, after completing their nine-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.