173rd Airborne leaves for duty in Afghanistan
May 31, 2007
Mideast edition, Thursday, May 31, 2007
With very little fanfare, the last soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade have left Vicenza, Italy, to begin their deployment in Afghanistan.
Lt. Col. Todd Johnston, the brigade’s rear detachment commander, said Tuesday that some 3,400 troops had left bases in Vicenza, and in Germany, Schweinfurt and Bamberg.
“So far, it’s been a very smooth deployment for the 173rd,” he said.
And a quiet one.
Each of the six battalions held ceremonies to case their respective colors over the past month, with various community members attending.
But the brigade’s ceremony was held around 4 a.m. May 22.
Johnston called the brigade’s ceremony “very informal, very low key. We did it on the morning the brigade commander left. The whole thing took five, 10 minutes.”
Johnston said potential protests by Italians upset with U.S. efforts in Southwest Asia and the proposed use of the Dal Molin airfield had “absolutely nothing at all” to do with the timing of the ceremony.
Rather, he said logistics and tradition played a part. The first unit to go — the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment — left in early May. Soldiers then left in relatively small groups — the largest was about 300 — over the course of several weeks.
“Getting all the leadership together for a good [brigade] casing ceremony was virtually impossible,” Johnston said. “It was decided we were better using our effort and energy elsewhere. It was a conscious decision. It wasn’t to keep it a secret or anything like that.”
Johnston said family readiness groups are functioning on a company level at all three installations and he expects lines of communications with the troops downrange will be set up soon, once they arrive at their new locations and get settled.