Story by Maj. Kamil Sztalkoper
The 4th Brigade Combat Team “Currahee,” 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), started 2013 running fast and hard, as the brigade deployed to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The unit then deployed for a nine-month tour of Afghanistan, advising and assisting Afghan army and police units and transitioning facilities to Afghan control, ahead of schedule as it turned out, and 4th BCT was able to return most soldiers home several months early.
Sadly, in accomplishing the mission, the Currahees lost eight soldiers.
The rotation to JRTC successfully prepared Currahees at the squad, platoon, company, battalion, and brigade levels by exposing the brigade to rigorous and realistic training.
Upon return to Fort Campbell, the Currahees began to pack their duffel bags and containers for shipment to Afghanistan. No time was wasted during the cold winter month of February as equipment was checked and re-checked.
During March the Currahees were given the opportunity to take some block leave before the deployment to spend with their families and friends.
The month of April began the deployment of the first group of Currahees to Afghanistan. This was the beginning of the last deployment for the 4th BCT.
Also in April the colors of the 4th BCT and of the 506th Infantry Regiment were cased for the upcoming deployment.
CASING THE COLORS
“We join together to collectively tell the world that the Currahees are ready, we are deploying to answer our nation’s call. We bring with us the strength of the Currahee nation – tens-of-thousands strong, with the support of our families, veterans and friends,” said Col. Val C. Keaveny Jr., commander of the 4th BCT, 101st Airborne Division, in a ceremony that was held on April 11, 2013.
During the ceremony, Currahee veterans from World War II, Vietnam and recent campaigns presented battle flags to the brigade commander, and battalion, squadron, battery, company and troop commanders.
These flags will be flown here as a show of support from the veterans in the absence of the unit’s colors.
“Our colors have already flown in France, Holland, Germany, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Keaveny. “On April 11, 2013, we prepare our colors, once again, to fly into combat.”
“In the days and weeks ahead, we will add more to the lineage as we unfurl our colors in combat and as we don our 101st combat patches. Like the Currahees who have come before us, we have been called upon to serve at a decisive point in our nation’s history.”
“I feel proud to deploy with this great regiment,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Grinston, of 4th BCT, 101st Airborne Division. “It will forge a bond for me with those that have deployed in the past with the Currahees and with those that will deploy in the future.”
“From the tracer-filled skies of D-Day, the bone-chilling cold of Bastogne, the sweltering jungles of Vietnam, the tense moments on the Korean Demilitarized Zone, the blistering heat of Iraq, to the lung-wrenching mountains of Afghanistan, Currahees have proven their mettle, time and time again,” highlighted Keaveny. “I know we will honor that legacy, we will accomplish our mission and we will return with honor.”
In May 2013 the Currahees began to deploy their main body flights from Fort Campbell to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. Approximately 2,500 Currahees deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In late May the Currahees participated in a transfer of authority ceremony with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasan,” 101st Airborne Division, held at Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan, May 22, 2013.
The ceremony featured the casing of the 3rd BCT “Rakkasan,” 101st Airborne Division, colors and the uncasing of the Currahee colors. The ceremony signified the transfer of authority of the Khowst and Paktya provinces to the Currahees.
The Currahees wasted no time and immediately set about in executing their new mission set.
“Our mission was to assist and advise the Afghan National Security Forces,” said Keaveny. “Advise and assist them in helping them accomplish their mission of securing the population and then attacking the insurgent network.”
TRAINING, ADVISING, ASSISTING
The Currahees partnered with the 15,000 Afghan National Security Forces in the two provinces and began to make an immediate impact.
Prior to the arrival of the Currahees, Afghan security forces were executing 90 percent of their operations unilaterally. In a few short months of the Currahees training, assisting and advising, the Afghans were conducting 99 percent of the operations by themselves.
This increase in tactical and operational capacity of the Afghans security forces resulted in the transfer of seven combat outposts or forward operating bases from coalition Afghan control.
The Currahees conducted more than 1,000 partnered patrols with their Afghan counterparts, fired more than 2,100 rounds of artillery, cleared more than 10,900 kilometers of roads, removed more than 2,560 20-foot equivalent units worth of equipment, 2,600 tons of scrap metal, and 80,000 pounds of unserviceable Class V ammunition out of their battle-space.
During the deployment, the 4th BCT lost eight Currahee soldiers. They will be forever remembered as making the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow Currahees and country.
With the ever-increasing capacity of the Afghan security forces in the Currahee area of operations, the decision was made to begin redeploying 4th BCT soldiers ahead of schedule.
What was supposed to be a nine-month deployment turned out to be a six- to- eight-month deployment for most Currahees.
Arriving in time for the holiday season, more than 2,000 Currahees have redeployed prior to the start of the new year.
Approximately 250 Currahees from 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, remain in Afghanistan in support of a train, assist and advise mission.
The remaining Currahees will redeploy in mid-January of 2014.
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