LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, based out of Fort Polk, La., assumed responsibility as advisers to Afghan National Security Forces in eastern Afghanistan from the 4th BCT, 1st Cavalry Division, during a transfer of authority ceremony held on Forward Operating Base Gamberi, July25.
The “Patriot” Brigade Soldiers took control and responsibilities from the “Long Knife” Brigade, based out of Fort Hood, Texas, who served as the first security force assistance brigade in Regional Command-East for the past nine months.
The outdoor ceremony began with a formation of troops, which included the 4-1 Cav. Div., and 4-10 Mtn. Div., Soldiers. Among those in attendance to the morning event were senior leaders from Combined Joint Task Force-101, Afghan National Army 201st Corps, Afghan Uniformed Police and the Afghan National Civil Order Police.
During the ceremony, U.S. Army Col. William Benson, the commander of 4-1 Cav. Div., and Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Menton, the senior enlisted adviser, sheathed the brigade colors symbolizing the end of their tour. Colonel Mario Diaz, the commander of 4-10th Mtn. Div., and Command Sgt. Maj. Noe Salinas, unsheathed the brigade’s colors. By doing so, the Task Force “Patriot” soldiers assumed their role to advise, assist and enable the operations of their ANSF counterparts in northeastern Afghanistan.
“It’s a great day to be here because all of you have given so much and are committed to providing a future for the Afghan children,” said Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, the commander of CJTF-101.
McConville told the departing “Long Knife” troopers they should be proud of the role they played as the first SFAB to spearhead the shift from a combat to a strictly advisory role.
“This is no small accomplishment. The lessons you learned and the tactics, techniques and procedures you developed and your relationship with our Afghan brothers has shaped how our SFABs train and operate today,” said McConville. “As advisers to the 201st Corps, the relationships you’ve established directly and dramatically supported the increase of the security the ANSF continue to achieve.”
McConville said as a result of their hard work, the ANSF are able to protect the Afghan people on their own.
“The ANSF secure major supply routes without assistance, execute independent operations, conduct indirect fire missions in support of their troops,” said McConville. “Col. Benson, Command Sgt. Maj. Menton, and troopers of the Task Force ‘Long Knife,’ I commend you on a job extremely well done.”
He told the “Long Knife” soldiers they made a difference leaving behind a strong and powerful ANSF truly capable of securing their nation and making Afghanistan a better place. McConville told the troopers to let the American people know, once they are home, that the ANSF are capable and are defeating the enemy and securing their country.
“Now it is time to focus on your next task, redeployment and reintegration,” said McConville. “I ask you that you take care of each other during this critical phase just like you took care of each other here. I ask you that you thank your loved ones for allowing you to do what you do and for their unwavering support.”
Colonel Benson, the commander of 4-1 Cav. Div., spoke from behind a podium following McConville. He reminded those in attendance of the journey of the “Long Knife” Brigade. It has deployed four times in the past 7 years since its inception in 2006. In between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, the brigade moved from Fort Bliss to Fort Hood, Texas.
“I was surprised of the competence and capabilities of the ANA 201st Corps,” said Benson. “After serving with the 201st Corps I am confident that the ANA cannot be defeated in any meaningful way.”
Benson said the enemies of Afghanistan have lost their way. He said when the ANA were tested, the 201st Corps soldiers supported by the police and border forces, have responded aggressively. In each case the enemy has been killed, captured or fled.
“They come to Afghanistan to fight Coalition Forces and intimidate the Afghan people, and instead they find an Afghan army increasingly united with the people,” said Benson. “They have become despondent. A despondent enemy is soon a defeated enemy.”
He said because of the strength of the ANSF, the Afghan people have something that has eluded this country for the last thirty-five years. Benson said they have hope, they have the opportunity for a different future than would have been believed just a couple of years ago.
“This is an important mission, for this reason, I leave Afghanistan hopeful,” said Benson. “I would like to give thanks to the ANA leadership for giving us and our team confidence that our efforts were meaningful and that the future of Afghanistan is one of hope and opportunity.”
Col. Mario Diaz, The Task Force “Patriot” Brigade commander, thanked Benson as he followed him with his speech.
“Col. Bill Benson, Command Sgt. Major Menton, as well as all of the ‘Long Knife’ troopers, you are truly professionals, you’ve made a difference every day,” said Diaz. “Thank you for preparing us for this mission and Godspeed as you go home to your families in Texas.”
It has been less than two years since soldiers from Task Force “Patriot” were in Afghanistan. Diaz said he and the soldiers of Task Force “Patriot” will be ready to continue the mission as advisers in this important and decisive year. He said the brigade received the best training in the Army at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.
“This SFAB mission is very important and we are the most prepared organization in the Army to accomplish it,” said Diaz.