Brigade HQ returns to Katterbach, while most of brigade still downrange

Col. Van J. Voorhees, left, and Command Sergeant Major Michael Clowser uncase unit colors for the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade during a Monday ceremony in Katterbach, Germany. The brigade headquarters and its 412th Aviation Support Battalion returned early from a 9-month deployment to Afghanistan due to a force cap. Much of the brigade remains deployed in the country, however.


By STEVEN BEARDSLEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 15, 2012

KATTERBACH, Germany — The headquarters of U.S. Army Europe’s helicopter brigade marked its return here Monday, even as most of the brigade remains scattered across Afghanistan and Kuwait.

The 12th Combat Aviation Brigade uncased its colors in a brief ceremony inside a hangar Monday morning, more than a month after most of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company and the 412th Aviation Support Battalion returned due to limits on troop numbers serving in Afghanistan.

The brigade cased its colors for a nine-month deployment in April, only to be caught in the reduction of surge forces soon after arrival, commander Col. Van J. Voorhees Jr. said in his remarks.

“I didn’t like this order, candidly,” Voorhees said. “Obviously, no commander wants to leave forces in the fight and depart. I have also learned that professional organizations don’t worry about why they are being told to do certain things. They execute the missions and the orders given to them to the highest standard possible.”

Of the roughly 2,100 soldiers deployed in April and May, nearly 1,500 remain in Afghanistan and as many as 400 in Kuwait, according to brigade spokesman Capt. Michael Barranti.

Elements of five of the brigade’s seven battalions remain tasked in 18 locations across Afghanistan and in each of NATO’s four regional commands as part of the original deployment, he said, with each falling under the headquarters of another Army combat aviation brigade.

One of the brigade’s battalions, the 1st Battalion, 214th General Support Aviation Regiment, remained in Germany after returning from a separate deployment in February, some two months before the main contingent departed.

In his remarks, Voorhees also recalled two of his soldiers killed during a May crash near Kabul, Capt. John “Jay” Brainard, 26, and Chief Warrant Officer 5 John C. Pratt, 51.

The deployment, meanwhile, continues until next year, he said.

“It will only be complete when every single Griffin soldier is redeployed next spring,” Voorhees said.


Col. Van J. Voorhees, commander of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade in Katterbach, Germany, speaks at a colors uncasing ceremony on Monday. The brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Company and its 412th Aviation Support Battalion returned early from a spring deployment to Afghanistan due to the reduction of U.S. surge forces from the country.


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