Commander of 3rd BCT at Fort Drum talks about upcoming deployment
By GORDON BLOCK | Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. | Published: July 25, 2013
FORT DRUM, N.Y. — The commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team said he and his soldiers were confident heading into their recently announced deployment starting this fall.
“We’re very aware, as we look to our eventual withdrawal, and being one of the last brigades there, we are very much determined to see the mission through as we look at the deployment,” Col. Samuel E. Whitehurst said Tuesday afternoon in a phone call with the Times.
The brigade, after months of training, finally received its deployment orders July 11. The upcoming deployment will be the brigade’s fourth since it reactivated in September 2004. The brigade’s other deployments were in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
Soldiers from the brigade will be in a security force advise-and-assist role, much like the division’s Fort Drum-based 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams and the 4th Brigade Combat Team, based at Fort Polk, La. The 2,000-soldier estimate is slightly larger than the 1,500- to 2,000-soldier count for the post’s 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams, allowing it to operate in a larger area.
The brigade has been training for the past year for the deployment, including the post’s Mountain Peak exercise in April and a rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk in June.
Among the highlights for the brigade was getting additional training with the Capability Set 13 communication technology, which helps track soldier movements and increases connectivity in remote areas through combined mobile satellite and radio connections.
Col. Whitehurst said his soldiers’ competence with the technology had improved greatly since they acquired it in October. Among the highlights for the rotations were getting updates from battalion leadership who were on the move away from their tactical operations centers, and the ability to track the location of individual leaders during an air assault mission that the commander said helped give a better understanding of situational awareness. “It provides us so many more options,” he said.
He said that for the remaining months the soldiers will work on fine-tuning their military and language skills.
Col. Whitehurst and other members of the brigade’s leadership were in Afghanistan for about 10 days following the JRTC rotation, and they met with soldiers and leaders from the other deployed division brigades and their Afghan counterparts, along with units they eventually will replace.