Commander of deactivated 3rd Brigade Combat Team recounts unit's final deployment
By Gordon Block | Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. (MCT) | Published: August 19, 2014
FORT DRUM, N.Y. — It remains a long road to stability for the people of Afghanistan, but the commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team said the country’s improving security forces could give its people a chance to determine their future.
“There’s nothing easy in Afghanistan,” said Col. Samuel E. Whitehurst. “There is some uncertainty ahead, but it’s not the situation I saw 10 years ago. Now I see provincial governors, I see police chiefs, I see Afghan corps commanders, and brigade commanders. They’re the ones driving the process.”
Col. Whitehurst spoke to the Times and other media outlets about the recently concluded nine-month deployment following the brigade’s deactivation ceremony on post Thursday morning.
About 2,000 brigade soldiers were distributed through the Wardak, Logar, Paktiya, Khost, Ghazni and Paktika provinces in the eastern side of the country, advising and training the Afghan military and police units.
Among the key moments for the Afghan units observed by the brigade’s forces were the protection of a ceremony marking the end of a yearlong selection of Ghazni as the Islamic capital of the region, and more importantly its presidential elections.
“We stood with them, but we were there really more on the sidelines, as they continued to plan and secure those elections,” Col. Whitehurst said.
Fending off a surge of opposition attacks, he said general and run-off round voting was successful, despite an audit currently taking place.
Among the things Col. Whitehurst noted during his time in country was a sense of confidence among his soldiers’ Afghan counterparts, and a feeling of respect between soldiers.
The brigade lost four soldiers in the deployment: Spc. Kerry M. G. Danyluk, Sgt. Shawn M. Farrell II, Spc. Christian J. Chandler and Spc. Terry J. Hurne.
Speaking to media Thursday, Col. Whitehurst said the chance “to serve in the same formation that they served” was a honor.
The brigade’s deactivation comes as America looks to withdraw most of its forces Afghanistan by the end of the year. Asked if he saw any parallels between American operations in Afghanistan and the current strife following America’s withdrawal from Iraq, Col. Whitehurst said he saw the two countries “very different,” and that he didn’t know if the developments in Iraq could also happen in Afghanistan.
The commander said he was concerned for the friends he made within the Iraqi military through his service there, and that he was praying for them through their fight against Islamic militants. With the brigade’s deactivation, Col. Whitehurst will soon move to a role at the Pentagon, in the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
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