Another 4,000 soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord are deploying to Afghanistan late this spring, taking on a nine-month mission as the Army draws down its ranks in combat.
The Pentagon Thursday announced the assignment for the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, but it’s been an open secret at the base south of Tacoma for months. Brigade commander Col. Barry Huggins framed his soldiers’ November exercises at the National Training Center in Southern California around Afghan themes.
“Our soldiers represent the breadth and depth of experience of the last 10 years at war, and will bring that experience to bear as we fulfill our mission, in accordance with our values,” Huggins said in a written statement Thursday.
The 2nd Brigade troops will join about 4,700 Lewis-McChord soldiers already in Afghanistan. The largest deployed units from the base include the I Corps and about half of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Huggins on Thursday declined to release much information about the mission or the preparations the Army is making for families. He wanted to save his remarks for a news conference he planned for today.
More than 90,000 American soldiers are in Afghanistan now. The Pentagon wants to reduce the troop level to about 68,000 by the end of September.
The Defense Department on Wednesday announced a roster of other new units heading to Afghanistan this spring. They differed from the Lewis-McChord announcement in that the other brigades are not deploying at full strength and are expected to focus on advising Afghan forces to take more control of their own security.
The 2nd Brigade appears to be on a course to take its full force.
The brigade’s history at Lewis-McChord looks complicated to outsiders. The Army built up the unit at Lewis-McChord in 2007 sent it to Afghanistan in 2009-10 under the flag of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
It returned from combat in July 2010 and the Army renamed it the 2nd Brigade. The official Army history of the 2nd Brigade says it fought in Iraq three times over the past decade from bases in South Korea and in Colorado.
About 15 percent – 642 soldiers – of the current 2nd Brigade fought in Afghanistan three years ago under the 5th Brigade’s flag, Army spokesman Maj. Chris Ophardt said.
They were the first Stryker soldiers to serve in Afghanistan, and they fought on ground NATO had left uncontested for much of the war. Thirty-seven soldiers died, many of them in the first three months of the deployment.
The tough fighting the brigade saw patrolling parts of Kandahar and Helmand provinces in southern Afghanistan contributed to the Army’s decision to redesign the eight-wheeled Stryker vehicle so it can better withstand deadly roadside bombs.
Strykers used in Afghanistan today have more armor and a slanted underside, contrasting with the original “flat-bottomed” vehicle used by the 5th Brigade.
The nine-month deployment is three months shorter than infantry brigades have traditionally done in the last decade. The Army is in a time of transition to make overseas duty less onerous on military families. The 3rd Brigade soldiers who went to Afghanistan in December are due to serve a full one-year tour.
Huggins led Lewis-McChord Stryker soldiers on year-long deployments to Iraq in 2003-04 and in 2006-07. He took command of the 2nd Brigade in July 2010 and has since shaped its image on the motto of “seize the high ground.” Its previous motto under former commander Col. Harry Tunnell was “strike – destroy.”
Posters showing medieval knights called “lancers” decorate the brigade headquarters at Lewis-McChord, urging soldiers to think of themselves as protectors of civilians.
“I wholeheartedly feel that the leaders and soldiers of the ‘lancer’ brigade are trained and ready for this deployment to Afghanistan,” said Maj. Gen. Lloyd Miles, senior Army commander at Lewis-McChord.
Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 email@example.com
Local millitary family receives $50,000 from Ellen show. A8