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Another Stryker brigade headed to Afghanistan

Post by Christian Hill / The News Tribune on March 30, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
March 30, 2012 1:21 pm

Another Stryker infantry brigade based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is on its way to Afghanistan.

The 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division held its deployment ceremony Friday, casing its unit colors as it reached the end of its preparations for a nine-month tour. Hundreds of family members watched the 30-minute ceremony as about 4,000 soldiers stood at attention on the base’s parade ground muddied by spring rains.

The brigade will deploy to southern Afghanistan with the main focus of advising Afghan force to take more control of their own security.

“When we return, I pledge we will return with honor, having expended our energies to protect others and in the hope that we will have earned the gratitude that you so generously bestow upon us,” Col. Barry Huggins, the brigade’s commander, said in brief remarks.

The 2nd Brigade will join about 6,700 Lewis-McChord soldiers already in Afghanistan. Another Stryker brigade, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, deployed in December to Afghanistan with roughly half its soldiers. Its remaining soldiers arrived there within the last month. I Corps headquarters has been in command in daily operations there and is set to return home to Lewis-McChord this summer.

The tour will be three months shorter than the 12-month tours soldiers have traditionally served over the last decade. Huggins said after the ceremony that holds “tremendous benefit” for his unit as less time in combat will be “psychologically easier” for his soldiers and there’s not as much “turmoil and turbulence” because 10 percent of its force won’t be away on mid-tour leave at any one time.

It’s the second tour to Afghanistan for the brigade. It returned from a 12-month deployment in 2010 when it was known as a the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Bonnie Santana flew from South Bend, Ind., to spend time with her son, Pfc. Donald Dowlut II, 21, before his deployment.

Mother and son greeted the coming tour with radically different emotions. Dowlut was rearing to serve his country, saying his unit were well prepared and he was excited about embarking on his first tour.

“Whatever they throw at us, we’ll come back safe,” he said confidently.

Santana greeted her son’s departure with uneasiness that she said has been magnified tenfold by the murder of 17 Afghan civilians allegedly at the hands of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, who had deployed with 3rd Brigade for a fourth time.

Personal tragedy compounded her worry. Tears ran down her cheeks as she talked about the death of her 16-year-old daughter four years ago.

“It’s extra hard for me,” she said. “He is my only son. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m very proud of him, and I just want him to come back safe.”

Follow me on Twitter @TNTchill

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