Flights of incoming “Black Jack” soldiers continued this week, as elements of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team returns from Afghanistan early from a nine-month deployment.
On Tuesday morning, about 130 soldiers marched across Cooper Field to greet their loved ones and two more are expected later this week.
About half of the more than 3,000 deployed troopers will be home by the end of the month, said Col. Robert Whittle, brigade commander. He cased the brigade’s colors at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, on Saturday in preparation to return to Fort Hood.
The brigade deployed last July with its six battalions to provide security assistance force across three regional commands. The early homecomings of 15th Brigade Support Battalion and 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion began in November. Both units have since uncased their colors at Cooper Field.
On Jan. 15, Whittle, said most of 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, and the brigade headquarters, will be coming home soon.
“The remainder will be back by the end of March and that’s when every single one of us will truly come home,” Whittle said during a phone interview with the Fort Hood Herald.
Col. Christopher Garver, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Kabul, attributed the reduction of troops in Afghanistan to a strengthening Afghan National Security Force, among other conditions.
“Additionally, our forces are predominantly conducting a security force assistance mission — training, advising and assisting our Afghan counterparts — which requires a different array of forces than in previous phases of the campaign,” Garver said. “In response to these changes, we have been able to send home additional elements of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Brigade, which has performed admirably during its deployment.”
To ease confusion for families, officials listed on Facebook the companies and battalions remaining in Afghanistan through March. This includes all of 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment; 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment; and much of 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment.
“A lot of what we’ve been doing out here is securing the closure of tactical infrastructure,” Whittle said. “We’ve turned over a lot of forward operating bases to the Afghan Nation Security Forces. That in turn reduces the footprint out here in theater. That means that the brigade combat team itself doesn’t need as robust a infrastructure.”
The reduction also means the brigade’s headquarters element is no longer needed to provide mission command. Those soldiers remaining in Afghanistan will continue the missions they have conducted over the past six months.
“Typically what they’re going to be doing is securing forward operating bases, conducting combined arms route clearance operations, keeping lines of communication open and also convoy escort teams,” the colonel said. More homecoming ceremonies are expected on Cooper Field next week.
“We really appreciate the tremendous support we have from the Fort Hood community, from our families back home and from the 1st Cavalry Division and III Corps, and we look forward to the return of the entire brigade combat team by the end of March,” Whittle said.