Baumholder-based brigade to patrol northern Afghanistan
Stars and Stripes January 10, 2011
BAUMHOLDER, Germany — When the 170th Infantry Brigade Combat Team deploys to northern Afghanistan next month, it will be responsible for securing a large swath of land that borders Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and parts of China, according to brigade commander Col. Patrick Matlock.
The majority of the Baumholder-based brigade will be replacing the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
While the bulk of the unit will be working in the north, the 170th’s 3rd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, will be training the Afghan National Security Forces as part of NATO’s training mission. And the 40th Battalion, 70th Armor regiment will be assigned to Regional Command South, Matlock said.
Matlock said he anticipates the soldiers spending much of their time on foot patrols and in Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, or MRAPs, working with Afghan National Police to help provide security in the nearly 8,000 villages of the region.
Though the northern part of Afghanistan is considered to be peaceful compared with the south and east, it still has its share of roadside bombs and firefights, Matlock said.
“There’s a perception that the north is less lethal, but there is plenty of activity,” he said. “The unit before us has had soldiers killed and wounded, so I do expect to have contact and soldiers engaged in firefights and IED (improvised explosive device) threats.”
The soldiers will also be working with the Afghan Border Police to secure entry points into Afghanistan, such as the lone bridge that connects Afghanistan to Uzbekistan. The bridge is a key part of the American-led NATO coalition’s plan to develop a northern supply route into Afghanistan from Europe. This northern route would provide an alternative to the Khyber Pass in Pakistan, which has been the focus of recent Taliban attacks.
Matlock said the troops might even help to open a second bridge.
“These areas are key,” he said, “because they are centers of commerce.”
Nearly half the soldiers will be on their first deployment, Matlock said.
“We’ve had a remarkable training program. They have progressed well, and they are prepared,” Matlock said. “And if you are going to go, they want to go to Afghanistan. They want to be in the fight.”
Pfc. Matthew Haney, of the 589th Signal Detachment, said that he felt ready following several training exercises at Grafenwöhr, Germany, over the past six months.
“The challenges we faced there,” he said, “seemed like accurate models for what we will face downrange.”
Except, that is, for an actual firefight, which Haney said he will not be surprised to encounter on his first deployment.
“We’re prepared for that, that’s the job,” he said. “It seems the best way to feel about it is to be hopeful.”
Pfc. Cory Krigbaum’s first airplane flight was to Fort Benning, Ga., for basic training. His next will be to Afghanistan.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Krigbaum, 20, of Modesto, Calif. “I’ve been here since last November doing training, and all this waiting and anticipation has been building.”