The 200 soldiers of these units will be joining 400 more Alabamians this summer to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
A similar ceremony is planned for today in Sylacauga.
Each departing soldier was given a blue star banner to be displayed by their loved ones while they are away. It is part of a tradition that dates back to World War I. The banners depict a blue star on a white field with a red border.
The afternoon’s keynote speaker was Col. Brian Harris, who took command of the unit Sept. 8, 2001. “I said the day I took command that it was a dangerous world and we have to train for combat. I had no idea that three days later, the twin towers would be down and we would be deployed for the first time since the Korean War. And we have been deployed several more times over the last 11 years.”
Harris said he was speaking “as an infantryman who has served in Afghanistan. Our motto is, ‘We shall drive forward,’ and that’s exactly what we have to do. Aggressive action wins the day. You have to take the offensive. Violent action wins the day. We were next to a group of British soldiers who said we were too aggressive, we shouldn’t wear helmets and carry weapons all the time. They even said we were cowboys. They said they learned this in Northern Ireland. Well, Afghanistan is not Northern Ireland. Later on, they were ambushed, and every one of them was killed or wounded. We were ready. We were aggressive, and the enemy knew it. You have to have a plan. You have to know where you are going, and have an extrication plan if anything goes wrong.”
He also gave several other pieces of advice to the departing soldiers. “Discipline is important. Remember to shave every day, keep your equipment clean whether you’re sitting around or just off a five day op. Rest, and enforce a rest plan. Exercise. Eat right. Have a financial plan in place before you deploy. See to your spiritual health. See to your family. These are the reasons that you are the best trained, best equipped soldiers in the world.”
The troops are expected to arrive in Afghanistan this summer, and will be there for at least a year. They will be conducting security force missions supporting the National Training Mission — Afghanistan.
Contact Chris Norwood at email@example.com.