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Hundreds of soldiers staying behind as Stryker brigade heads to Afghanistan

Post by Christian Hill / The News Tribune on Nov. 22, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
November 22, 2011 12:20 pm

A Stryker combat brigade is heading to southern Afghanistan starting at the end of the month for a yearlong deployment with some of its forces staying behind.

A small crowd braved the cold and driving rain at the installation Tuesday to bid farewell to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which is headed to overseas combat for the fourth time in seven years.

Soldiers cased the unit colors of its headquarters and three of its infantry battalions during the ceremony in front of the brigade headquarters and surrounding a memorial that honors the unit’s fallen from its three prior deployments to Iraq.

Its remaining infantry battalion, the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Battalion, and two support units, the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery and 296th Brigade Support Battalion, will continue to train at Lewis-McChord and could join the brigade at a later date.

Col. Charles Webster Jr., the brigade commander, said ground commanders didn’t need a full brigade as the drawdown of U.S. forces continues and Afghan security “are able to to take on more of the fight.”

Webster said he’s spoken with Lewis-McChord’s top Army officer. Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who deployed to the country with Lewis-McChord’s I Corps in July as the war’s deputy commander. Webster said Scaparrotti emphazied how much better the Afghan forces have gotten over the last couple of years.

“That’s a large part of this equation that the Afghan forces are getting better capable along with the government and we’re able to downsize some of the coalition forces,” he said.

Webster said the battalions that remind behind could be attached with a different unit someplace else.

The 3rd Brigade was the first Stryker brigade to go to war with the marquee eight-wheeled armored vehicle it helped develop when it served its first tour in Iraq in 2003-04. The Army now fields eight such units. During 3/2’s first deployment to Afghanistan, it will be the first Stryker brigade to deploy to combat without those vehicles.

Instead, the soldiers will will drive a mix of armored vehicles that are already in Afghanistan, such as the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) and its all-terrain variety, the M-ATV.

The brigade also served in Iraq in 2006-07 and 2009-2010.

Soldiers will be able to have Thanksgiving dinner with their families but won’t be around for Christmas, although they will return home in time for the holidays next year.

The Army announced this summer it would start sending soldiers on nine-month combat deployments instead of 12-month missions, starting next year.

Twitter: @TNTchill

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