KILLEEN — Outgoing 1st Cavalry Division commander Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson III gave an update to the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce’s Military Relations Council on Monday during a luncheon at Texas A&M-Central Texas.

Thomson briefed the chamber members on the current state of the division, the First Team’s recent deployment to Afghanistan and the importance of remembering why the nation’s troops are still in the nation which once harbored the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“The (division) Sustainment Brigade was with us over in Afghanistan, Col. (Christopher) Colavita leads the brigade, the ‘Wagonmasters,’” he said. “And doing logistics and sustainment in a land-locked country is a tough business, but they made it look easy. I was very grateful we had our sustainment brigade there, wearing that Cav patch. Also we had the 3rd Cavalry Regiment with us, so it was kind of fun being in Afghanistan when we had so much of Fort Hood there with us.”

Thomson, who is scheduled to turn over command of the division to Brig. Gen. (Promotable) Paul T. Calvert on Tuesday, said he has spent 16 years of his life in the Fort Hood area, starting in 1971 when his father was stationed here.

“I’ve seen first-hand the tremendous growth in population, the economy, education, health care, services and so much more,” he said. “It is no wonder to me that the majority of soldiers who retire from the 1st Cavalry Division decide to stay right here.”

The commander said the division is currently leading the Army in reenlistments. “Most of our solders want to stabilize and stay in this area.”

The division currently is about 18,000 soldiers strong, Thomson said, of which 7,000 are currently deployed. Approximately 2,000 more soldiers from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade are due to deploy in the upcoming weeks, which will bring the division to 50 percent deployed overseas in areas such as Kuwait, Europe, South Korea and Afghanistan.

“The 1st Cavalry Division remains the most powerful and lethal division in the world, with one-third of the armored capability of the U.S. Army belonging to the 1st Cavalry Division,” Thomson said. “My guidance to my commanders and all my soldiers is to be ready — be ready now. Our nation ... when there’s a crisis, they pick up the phone and dial 1-800-1ST-TEAM.”

Thomson reminded the chamber members in attendance of the importance of Afghanistan and why U.S. troops are still there after 16 years.

“Afghanistan is vitally important — I think we forgot that,” he said. “Folks here know we’re at war. You see it, breathe it and support it every day. But for much of our nation, they have no idea — I think they’ve forgotten what’s going on there. We must not forget why we’re in Afghanistan — it’s where 9/11 was planned in, trained in, coordinated and executed.”

The division’s most recent deployment was the sixth since 9/11, Thomson said, with the first three being in Iraq.

“Afghanistan is our nation’s longest war — we’re coming up on year 17 and we’re doing this with an all-volunteer force,” he said. “On 9/11, we lost almost 3,000 lives. But the impact on our economy? Almost $2 trillion. People talk about how much money we spent there — another 9/11 is going to cost a heckuva lot more.”

Thomson said it was important for the nation to succeed in Afghanistan.

“Failure to do so invites attacks on our homeland and emboldens terrorists across the globe,” he said. “It will also result in a global migrant crisis and create repositories for groups like ISIS, as we saw in Northern Iraq and Syria, and we don’t need that.”

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

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