For the second time in three years, the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team is back in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, at Forward Operating Base Fenty in Jalalabad, the brigade formally took over responsibility for an area of operations in eastern Afghanistan from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

The 173rd, which will be known as Task Force Bayonet while in Afghanistan, “pledges to continue to build upon your legacy of teamwork,” Col. Mark Johnstone, deputy task force commander, told the 3rd BCT at the ceremony.

It is the third combat tour for the 173rd since 2003 — the unit was previously deployed to Iraq as well.

The 3rd BCT has been in Afghanistan for 16 months, officials said. And under the new Army rotation policy, the 173rd is scheduled for a 15-month tour.

“It’s been a lot of hard work,” Col. John Nicholson, commander of the 3rd BCT, told those present at the ceremony. “We have sacrificed much, but it has been a great honor to fight beside you. I’m sad to leave, but we are leaving you in good hands.”

The 173rd will operate in an area that has recently been expanded by the outgoing troops. American units have pushed into areas where they had not yet had a permanent presence, officials said, and are building up both existing and new bases.

Some 3,400 troops from the 173rd left bases in Vicenza, Italy, and in Schweinfurt and Bamberg, Germany, in late May.

The first unit to go — the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment — left in early May. Soldiers then left in relatively small groups, the largest being about 300, over several weeks.

One soldier from the 173rd already has been killed in this deployment. Spc. Jacob M. Lowell, 22, of the 1st Battalion, 503rd, was killed in combat on June 2 near Gowardesh.

Seventeen soldiers from the brigade and a total of 18 from SETAF, both based in Vicenza, Italy, were killed during the previous deployment to Afghanistan in 2005-06.

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