BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 26, 2008) — When the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team paratroopers set foot on Afghanistan soil 15 months ago, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division “Big Red One” was just re-activating at Fort Hood, Texas. Throughout the 173rd’s deployment they fought to reform Afghanistan while 3rd BCT, 1ST ID was training to take their place.
On July 24, at Forward Operating Base Fenty, a transfer of authority gave 3rd BCT, 1ST ID the opportunity to put their training to work and continue the mission the 173rd has been doing for more than a year.
“We understand that while [we] have been handed a difficult mission, we are well trained and capable,” said Col. John Spiszer, Task Force Duke commander with 3rd BCT, 1ST ID. “The task is important to our nation, to Afghanistan, to the people of [northeastern region of Afghanistan] and to each other. We look forward to the challenges ahead and will continue the work of Task Force Bayonet.”
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston also attended the ceremony. He came to Afghanistan to assist the Afghan National Army’s Sgt. Maj. of the Army Rashan Safi in developing the Afghan non-commissioned officer corps. Despite his busy schedule he stopped by, attended the ceremony and talked with the TF Duke Soldiers about the mission ahead.
“The Army’s been asked to do a tough mission and of course we’ve asked [3rd BCT, 1ST ID] to also do a tough mission,” said Preston. “I’m very proud of all of them and what they’re going to do and accomplish over the next 15 months. I’m very confident that this brigade, the Soldiers and the leadership are going to do a phenomenal job over the course of their deployment.”
The unveiling of the Big Red One colors symbolized the beginning of TF Duke’s command over the northeastern area of Afghanistan. As the light infantry brigade picks up where the 173rd left off, they plan to build on the foundation laid by the paratroopers during their time in Afghanistan.
“My intent is to continue on the same path that the 173rd Airborne Task Force Bayonet did, and to continue making improvements, carrying the ball the next ten yards, so to speak, because they’ve got a good plan and a good strategy that they’ve been executing,” Spiszer said.
The paratroopers are now headed home to their families in Europe after executing a mission of sacrifice and perseverance.
“Thanks to the magnificent paratroopers of the 173d and Task Force Bayonet for their blood, sweat and tears; fighting for a noble cause. Never before have I known such a brave group of Soldiers,” said Col. Charles Preysler, TF Bayonet commander. “Their tenacity and resolve, while fighting in some of the toughest terrain on earth, is humbling to me as leader. I am in awe of their accomplishments and am proud to have walked the same ground they have.”