III Corps deploys to Afghanistan

Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, greets officers and soldiers as they board a plane for deployment to Afghanistan at Robert Gray Army Airfield on Monday, April 15, 2013. More than 560 soldiers will spend the next year in Afghanistan to oversee the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command Headquarters in Kabul.

Christmas is coming early for some Fort Hood soldiers and families.

Hundreds of troops deployed to Afghanistan will be returning earlier than expected — some in time to spend Thanksgiving with their loved ones, officials announced.

In the next few days, more than 100 III Corps soldiers will be back in Central Texas, Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, wrote in the Fort Hood Sentinel on Thursday.

“These soldiers returning home have all significantly contributed to the mission here in Afghanistan and have made a lasting impact in the lives of the people of this country,” Milley wrote. “They have been instrumental in planning and coordinating operations throughout the entire country. Many of them have spent a considerable amount of time working directly with their Afghan counterparts, mentoring them one-on-one, better enabling the Afghans to take control of their future.”

More than 500 soldiers from Phantom Corps left in April with plans to spend a year in Afghanistan serving as the headquarters for the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Kabul.

Troops from other Fort Hood units are due home early, too.

The 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team deployed in July for a nine-month security assistance force mission. About 350 soldiers from the brigade’s 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion and 15th Brigade Support Battalion also will be home for the holidays, said Col. Robert Whittle, brigade commander.

“While we are still on track for a nine-month deployment for the majority of the brigade combat team, some of our missions are decreasing in scope and size,” he said in an email. “This is a result of 12 years of success, hard work and commitment by the coalition and our (Afghan National Security Force) partners.”

With about 13 months left before all U.S. service members are scheduled to leave Afghanistan, the number of troops deployed will continue to shrink. There were 54,000 American troops there in September, and that number should drop below 34,000 by the spring.

“With each passing day, the Afghan National Security Forces are assuming a greater role in the security of their country, allowing us to reduce the number of our troops and of our coalition partners as we right-size the force here in preparation for handing the mission over to the XVIII Airborne Corps in early 2014,” Milley wrote.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here. You can contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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