News: Mountain Division assumes command in Afghanistan
Story by Master Sgt. Kap Kim
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – The 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), from Fort Drum, N.Y., assumed command of Regional Command – East from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), from Fort Campbell, Ky., during a transfer of authority ceremony Feb. 6 at Bagram Air Field.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, Combined Joint Task Force-101’s commanding general, and Command Sgt. Maj. Alonzo Smith cased their 101st colors, and Army Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend, CJTF-10’s commanding general, and Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney “Ray” Lewis uncased their colors, symbolizing the relinquishing of command responsibility of RC-East.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, who came as a visitor, presided over the ceremony.
“This transition of authority today represents, once again, the commitment of the United States to the success of the Afghan government, to the success of the Afghan National Security Forces, and to the success and better life of the Afghan people – we are truly dedicated to that.”
CJTF-101’s McConville spoke to his Afghan teammates and thanked them for their support through the year.
“You know it’s truly been one team for the past 12 months,” McConville said of his Afghan general counterparts. “It’s been an honor and privilege for Regional Command – East to have served side-by-side with each one of you.”
For Townsend and CJTF-10, their mission this year will be nearly the same as the their predecessors as he told the attendees that later this year the 10th Mountain Division would be postured to assist the Afghan Security Forces and the government into the future through the NATO security assistance mission: Resolute Support.
“Our Afghan brothers can count on the 10th Mountain Division to help them, as they become more confident and self reliant, protecting the people and securing their country,” Townsend said. “We will help the Afghan Security Forces in targeting insurgents and terrorists so they can’t launch attacks against Afghanistan or from Afghanistan.”
A little more than 12 years ago, the 10th Mountain Division (LI), sent soldiers from their Special Troops Battalion and 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, to Uzbekistan and Afghanistan in direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Soon after, in December 2001, Maj. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck, the commander of 10th Mountain Division, took the division headquarters to Karshi-Khanabad Airbase in Uzbekistan and later to Bagram Air Field, to command CJTF-Mountain.
Both divisions are no strangers to the war on terrorism that sent its soldiers to both Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Twelve years ago, in March, the 10th Mountain and 101st fought, side-by-side, brothers in battle, in Operation Anaconda,” said Townsend. “It is very fitting in 2013 and 2014, as we reach the conclusion of OEF, that the 101st and the 10th Mountain once again stand in the plains of Afghanistan, side-by-side, but this time, with another powerful brother in battle: the Afghan Security Forces.”
The 101st Airborne Division operated in eastern Afghanistan three times, and the 10th Mountain Division now has been in the east four times and once in the south. Yet, both divisions, with either their division headquarters, or with their brigades and battalions, have served throughout Afghanistan and Iraq for every year of the total 13 years spent in Southwest Asia.
Bagram Airport, build in the 1950s and later used by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, is the eastern headquarters to one of the five regional commands, an area roughly the size of Virginia, which includes 14 provinces and 7.5 million Afghans and borders Pakistan to its west. When the 101st Airborne Division assumed command of RC-East last March, there were almost 60 bases. Today, the Afghan National Security Forces have taken control of 40 of them with approximately 80,000 Afghan troops.