Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Brandenburg
December 17, 2011
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LAGMAN, Afghanistan – The night was dark with a crisp winter wind as the soldiers of the Arrowhead Brigade gathered inside Sheridan Gym [on Fort Lewis] waiting for their names to be called off the manifest. They had already said goodbye to their loved ones, whom they would not see for the next year. One by one, each soldier filed out the back door, yelling “here” as they exited, and loaded onto buses that would eventually deliver them to McChord Airfield.
Arrowhead soldiers reached McChord Airfield, dropped their bags and grabbed a bite to eat before loading the plane that would take them to the other side of the world.
The word was given to load up, soldiers scrambled to their feet, bags and gear being slung on shoulders and over backs. Once everyone was on the plane, the Arrowhead soldiers settled in for a long flight, many just wanting to sleep the entire way.
The seatbelt light illuminated and the captain announced that the flight was starting its final decent into Bangor, Maine. With a jolt, the plane touched down and taxied to the terminal. The layover was long enough to get a coffee, call home and walk around before the announcement called everyone back onboard.
Next stop was Leipzig, Germany where, for many, it was the first time outside the borders of their own country.
They loaded back on the plane glad that the next stop would be the last for the next few days. Twenty-three hours after taking off from Joint Base Lewis McChord, the plane touched down at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. At Manas the soldiers of 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, received a brief on the rules of engagement and completed Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle Egress Training.
After a few days, the men and women of the Arrowhead Brigade loaded an Air Force C-17 Globemaster ready for the flight into Kandahar, Afghanistan. This was the first main wave of Arrowhead soldiers to reach Kandahar Airfield. The brigade had deployed three times before but this was the first time 3-2 SBCT would have soldiers on Afghan ground.
Soldiers trained on how to spot improvised explosive devices as well as zeroing their individual weapons over the next two days.
“I thought the counter improvised explosive device lane was very informative,” said Sgt. Richard Wallace, chaplain assistant, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd SBCT, 2nd ID. “I thought it was good instruction for the soldiers to have.”
Arrowhead soldiers loaded CH-47 Chinooks at Kandahar, which transported them to forward operating bases throughout the Zabul province. There, the Arrowhead Brigade would take command of Combined Team Zabul, which currently has two Romanian mechanized battalions and 1st Battalion 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.
“We have it pretty good here, we have good food, we have a gym next door,” said Spc. Mark Neace, Fusion Cell, HHC, 3rd SBCT, 2nd ID. “It could be a lot worse.”
Upon reaching their respective FOBs, the soldiers of 3-2 SBCT had little down time and instead started learning as much about the area as they could from the 116th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Virginia National Guard, whom they replaced.
“This area [Zabul province] is already well established, it’s been an economy of force mission,” said Lt. Col. Robert D. Halvorson, executive officer 3rd SBCT, 2nd ID. “The efforts that the units before us have put into place whether it be 3rd ACR [Armored Cavalry Regiment] or whether it be 116th IBCT have set this place up for success, so really we’re building on that.”
Even before the 116th IBCT transferred its authority of the Zabul province to 3-2 SBCT, Dec. 27, 2011, Arrowhead soldiers were “On Point” and taking the lead. No matter what their role or position, the soldiers of the Arrowhead Brigade have shown that they have what it takes to accomplish the mission.
“I think the attitude is, just a willingness and readiness to succeed,” added Wallace.