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A joint-service and multinational color guard performed at the transfer of authority ceremony for the national support element of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

A joint-service and multinational color guard performed at the transfer of authority ceremony for the national support element of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

A joint-service and multinational color guard performed at the transfer of authority ceremony for the national support element of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

A joint-service and multinational color guard performed at the transfer of authority ceremony for the national support element of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

Afghan officials, including the governors of Parwan and Kapisa provinces, greet Maj. Gen. John 'J.T.' Thomson, commander of the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division, after a transfer of authority ceremony at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in which Thomson took over command of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan's national support element.

Afghan officials, including the governors of Parwan and Kapisa provinces, greet Maj. Gen. John 'J.T.' Thomson, commander of the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division, after a transfer of authority ceremony at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, in which Thomson took over command of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan's national support element. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Albertson, left, and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bannister, right, case the 10th Mountain Division's colors during a transfer of authority ceremony for the national support element of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Albertson, left, and Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bannister, right, case the 10th Mountain Division's colors during a transfer of authority ceremony for the national support element of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

A flag bearer marches off the 10th Mountain Division's cased colors as a second flag bearer marches on the 1st Cavalry Division's cased colors during a transfer of authority ceremony for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan's support element at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

A flag bearer marches off the 10th Mountain Division's cased colors as a second flag bearer marches on the 1st Cavalry Division's cased colors during a transfer of authority ceremony for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan's support element at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

Command Sgt. Maj. Maurice Jackson, left, and Maj. Gen. John 'J.T.' Thomson, right, uncase the 1st Cavalry Division colors at a transfer of authority ceremony for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan's support element at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

Command Sgt. Maj. Maurice Jackson, left, and Maj. Gen. John 'J.T.' Thomson, right, uncase the 1st Cavalry Division colors at a transfer of authority ceremony for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan's support element at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bannister speaks during a transfer of authority ceremony at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Bannister, commander of the 10th Mountain Division, handed over command of the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan national support element to 1st Cavalry Division commander Maj. Gen. John 'J.T.' Thomson.

Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bannister speaks during a transfer of authority ceremony at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Bannister, commander of the 10th Mountain Division, handed over command of the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan national support element to 1st Cavalry Division commander Maj. Gen. John 'J.T.' Thomson. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

Maj. Gen. John 'J.T.' Thomson shakes hands with Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bannister during a transfer of authority ceremony at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Thomson, who leads the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division, assumed command of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan's national support element from Bannister, who leads the Army's 10th Mountain Division.

Maj. Gen. John 'J.T.' Thomson shakes hands with Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bannister during a transfer of authority ceremony at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Thomson, who leads the U.S. Army's 1st Cavalry Division, assumed command of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan's national support element from Bannister, who leads the Army's 10th Mountain Division. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

U.S. Army officials sing the 10th Mountain Division song during a transfer of authority ceremony at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

U.S. Army officials sing the 10th Mountain Division song during a transfer of authority ceremony at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

An Afghan lieutenant colonel drapes a traditional robe over the shoulders of Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bannister, commander of the Army's 10th Mountain Division, after a transfer of authority ceremony at Bagram Air Field on Sept. 13, 2016. Bannister was the outgoing commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan's support element and worked closely with Afghan counterparts in the military and government.

An Afghan lieutenant colonel drapes a traditional robe over the shoulders of Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bannister, commander of the Army's 10th Mountain Division, after a transfer of authority ceremony at Bagram Air Field on Sept. 13, 2016. Bannister was the outgoing commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan's support element and worked closely with Afghan counterparts in the military and government. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

A soldier holds a tray full of 1st Cavalry Division combat patches during a ceremony at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, celebrating the division's 95th birthday. Soldiers deployed with the division, as well as counterparts in other services and coalition forces, received the distinctive patch, the largest in the Army, to signify their wartime service.

A soldier holds a tray full of 1st Cavalry Division combat patches during a ceremony at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, celebrating the division's 95th birthday. Soldiers deployed with the division, as well as counterparts in other services and coalition forces, received the distinctive patch, the largest in the Army, to signify their wartime service. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

Soldiers, most with the Army's 1st Cavalry Division and wearing the unit's traditional Stetson and spurs, stand in formation before a ceremony celebrating the division's 95th birthday with a cake-cutting and presentation of the division's distinctive combat patch on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

Soldiers, most with the Army's 1st Cavalry Division and wearing the unit's traditional Stetson and spurs, stand in formation before a ceremony celebrating the division's 95th birthday with a cake-cutting and presentation of the division's distinctive combat patch on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

Maj. J.D. Carlton receives the 1st Cavalry Division combat patch from Maj. Gen. John 'J.T.' Thomson during a ceremony celebrating the division's 95th birthday at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016.

Maj. J.D. Carlton receives the 1st Cavalry Division combat patch from Maj. Gen. John 'J.T.' Thomson during a ceremony celebrating the division's 95th birthday at Bagram Air Field on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

Leaders of the 1st Cavalry Division, from left to right, Maj. Gen. John 'J.T.' Thomson, Sgt. Maj. Francisco Acosta and Command Sgt. Maj. Maurice Jackson, cut the division's 95th birthday cake with a cavalry saber during a ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016 at Bagram Air Field.

Leaders of the 1st Cavalry Division, from left to right, Maj. Gen. John 'J.T.' Thomson, Sgt. Maj. Francisco Acosta and Command Sgt. Maj. Maurice Jackson, cut the division's 95th birthday cake with a cavalry saber during a ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016 at Bagram Air Field. (Chad Garland/Stars and Stripes)

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — On its 95th birthday, the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division uncased its colors here Tuesday as Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson III took authority of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan’s national support element.

Thomson took over from Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Bannister, who leads the Fort Drum, N.Y.-based 10th Mountain Division. Under Bannister, the national support element prepared a comprehensive plan for President Barack Obama’s proposed drawdown of U.S. troops from 9,800 to 5,500 and multiple base closures by early 2017, or what Bannister called an “ugly cliff.”

“Amateurs talk about strategy; professionals talk about logistics,” Bannister said, paraphrasing Gen. Omar Bradley, a former five-star General of the Army. The quote “seems perfect to capture this past year, as the mechanics of logistics informed much of the strategy.”

Logistics also informed work the support element did to assist Gen. John W. Nicholson in preparing an assessment of the force posture earlier this year, which led Obama to amend his planned reduction to 8,400 troops instead.

Nicholson, who spoke at the ceremony, praised Bannister’s leadership and the element’s work over the past year, including rolling up their sleeves to rework the earlier plan, reduce redundancies and create a new theater-wide advising structure.

The team “quickly translated ... into reality” new authorities Obama granted in early June that allowed U.S. forces to provide combat enablers to Afghan security forces, Nicholson said. It also supported more than 19,000 U.S. and coalition forces in the country, fielded equipment to 18 bases and processed $1.4 billion in contracts, he said.

Those efforts are a lasting contribution to the future of Afghanistan, Nicholson said, thanking Bannister for his “long service in this long war.” He also welcomed the soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division to “NATO’s largest and longest military coalition.”

The transition came just days after the U.S. forces in Afghanistan marked the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which al-Qaida had planned from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

The 10th Mountain’s headquarters has been sent to Afghanistan six times since then and once to Iraq.

The latest deployment marks the sixth for the headquarters of the Fort Hood, Texas-based 1st Cavalry Division, since the 2001 attacks, and its third to Afghanistan.

It will have the responsibility of implementing the drawdown plans 10th Mountain created while continuing its work to ensure Resolute Support has what it needs to carry out its train, advise and assist mission — from lunch to clean laundry to force protection technology.

Later in the day, 1st Cavalry Division soldiers, many wearing the traditional cavalry Stetson and spurs, celebrated its 95th birthday with a ceremony during which the division’s leadership cut a cake with a cavalry saber.

Soldiers and counterparts from other services and coalition forces also received the division’s distinctive patch, the largest in the Army, signifying their wartime service.

Though it started as horse cavalry patrolling the Mexican border, Thomson said the division left its horses in Texas, “but we did bring the cavalry spirit.”

“It’s time to quit talking and start riding the ride.”

garland.chad@stripes.com Twitter: @chadgarland

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Chad is a Marine Corps veteran who covers the U.S. military in the Middle East, Afghanistan and sometimes elsewhere for Stars and Stripes. An Illinois native who’s reported for news outlets in Washington, D.C., Arizona, Oregon and California, he’s an alumnus of the Defense Language Institute, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Arizona State University.
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