The News Tribune over the past 10 years built a solid tradition embedding with Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This year, we’re going to try something a little different. We’ll tail a single unit off and on as it turns its attention from a just-completed tour in Afghanistan to new challenges in a time of tightening resources.
We’re following the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, which today welcomed a new commander, Lt. Col. Robert Halvorson. He’s a Puget Sound native who has spent much of his Army career at Lewis-McChord.
He’s the only officer I’ve heard at a rainy Lewis-McChord change of command ceremony say this and mean it: “This is beautiful Washington weather – I’m a Washingtonian – great training weather.”
His boss, Col. Charles Webster, had the more typical reaction to a damp Lewis-McChord day and a soggy parade field. “I’m going to say what everybody is thinking – this weather really is, ahhhh, challenging sometimes.”
Halvorson succeeds Lt. Col. Jim Dunivan, who commanded the 1-14 on a sprawling mission in southern Afghanistan last year. The squadron led NATO operations in Zabul Province, a rural, mountainous district about seven times the size of the territory a cavalry squadron typically controls.
The squadron came home from Afghanistan in December. Since then, I attended a couple events in which Dunivan praised soldiers for exercising restraint in working with civilians and for building up the credibility of the Afghan forces who must take control of their own security.
“I could not be more proud of what you accomplished,” he told his soldiers in his goodbye remarks today.
We followed the 1-14 for a month last spring in Zabul Province, embedding with Dunivan’s soldiers as they learned their territory and saw early contact with insurgents.
We didn’t know what we were getting into when we connected with the squadron, and this “embed at home” likely will have a similar feel. We’re anticipating a mix of planned feature stories watching the 1-14 reset from war and spontaneous ones that we would not know about if we were not in regular contact with this unit. It should offer a good window to tell the Army’s story through the eyes of one unit.
We should roll out some longer features at the end of this month. In the meantime, we’ll be posting short blog updates, photos and videos here at FOB Tacoma.
Here’s a look ahead from Halvorson: “As we train to execute a cavalry mission over the next two years, it’s going to be nothing but great.”