FORT BLISS, Texas — Up to 800 soldiers, primarily from two battalions in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, are taking the final steps to deploy to Afghanistan around the new year.
On Wednesday, the battalions — the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment (Bobcats) and the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment (Stalwarts) — cased their unit colors in preparation for deployment.
Originally, up to 2,800 soldiers from 3rd Brigade were scheduled to deploy, but conditions have changed in Afghanistan causing a change in the mission, said brigade commander Col. Christopher C. LaNeve.
Both battalions will provide security for key infrastructure in Afghanistan and for Special Operations forces to continue training America's Afghan partners, LaNeve said.
The brigade had been training to deploy in its entirety for more than a year. This included a monthlong Iron Focus exercise last summer at Fort Bliss training areas and a stint at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
The brigade was disappointed it won't be deploying in its entirety, but still received valuable training, LaNeve said.
The 3rd Brigade, colorfully known as the Bulldogs, will now embark on its next complex set of tasks and missions, LaNeve said. The brigade has been earmarked for deactivation as early as April 2015 as part of the Army's restructuring. Most of the brigade's soldiers will be transferred to other Fort Bliss units, LaNeve said. Installation officials originally estimated Fort Bliss would lose a net of just 750 soldiers when the move was announced last summer.
Lt. Col. Ed Brady, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, said his unit is heading to Afghanistan during a critical year.
"Are we ready? Absolutely," Brady said. "These are great soldiers. About half of my formation went on our last deployment to Afghanistan (in 2012). We have a lot of experience we were able to harvest as we trained for this next mission."
Lt. Col. Kendall J. Clarke, commander of the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, said his unit is also "trained and ready" for Afghanistan.
"We are the best trained, best equipped and best manned organization that we can have right now," Clarke said.