Commander of Fort Drum's 2nd BCT talks about upcoming deployment

By GORDON BLOCK | Watertown Daily Times | Published: December 12, 2012

FORT DRUM — Weeks before deploying to Afghanistan, the commander of the 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team discussed his soldiers’ upcoming mission to help train Afghan units to take the lead in providing their nation’s security.

In the past several months, the brigade has had to adapt to its new role as a security force assistance brigade, a major change from previous deployments in which it led combat operations.

“It takes a mind shift, and that was probably the toughest thing to do,” said Col. Dennis S. Sullivan. “No longer is your success determined by your results against the enemy, but your success is based upon how competent the Afghan army is that they can succeed in their war against the insurgents in Afghanistan.”

About 1,500 to 2,000 soldiers from the brigade will serve for about nine months on Afghanistan’s eastern side and will be broken into security assistance force adviser teams of six to 18 soldiers, which will be paired with Afghan local police or military forces.

Also deploying in January is a similar-sized force from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, which will also serve in an advising role.

The Department of Defense, in its biannual update on progress in Afghanistan released Monday, mentioned the rising number of insider attacks, calling them opportunities by insurgents to claim propaganda victories “in an effort to sow distrust in ISAF-Afghan relations and to erode the confidence of the ISAF coalition.”

Col. Sullivan said he and his soldiers have done extra training to improve situational awareness that would help prevent such attacks. He also stressed a large number of the attacks were a result of cultural disputes, not terrorist actions, and creating more distance between Afghan trainees and coalition trainers would be the wrong action.

“It’s like in your own family,” Col. Sullivan said. “If something’s bothering you, you know it because you see them every day, you interact with them, as opposed to ‘Let me take a step back’ and thinking that separation will make you safer.”

Another challenge Col. Sullivan discussed was choosing the soldiers who would be deployed, saying most of the deploying force has leadership experience. About half of the approximately 3,000-member brigade will be left stateside and its responsibilities will include training for contingency missions to standard rear detachment work, which includes management of administrative issues and soldier processing.

Col. Sullivan admitted some of the soldiers not deploying expressed frustration with the decision.

“What I tell soldiers is if you didn’t go out for this one, stay in the Army long enough and you will get plenty of opportunities of terms to come,” he said.

Col. Sullivan’s 24-year military career has included multiple tours in Afghanistan along with deployments to Iraq and Kosovo.

On Tuesday, soldiers took part in a challenge that will determine the best security assistance force adviser team, setting up radio and satellite connections and searching for improvised explosive devices.

Other challenges tested soldiers’ language skills and weapons proficiency. Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team will complete the challenges today.

Soldiers will be on block leave starting Saturday and will deploy in early January.



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