Spartans Take Reins in Eastern Afghanistan
By Sgt. 1st Class Michael Pintagro, USA
American Forces Press Service
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan, March 13, 2006 The 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division - known as the Spartans - assumed authority for the coalition's Regional Command East from the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment in a ceremony here today.
(Front to back) Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, Army Col. John Nicholson, and Army Command Sgt. Maj. James Redmore salute as the national anthem plays during a March 13 transfer-of-authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Afghanistan's Khost province. Freakley commands the coalition's Combined Joint Task Force 76. Nicholson commands Task Force Spartan, which assumed responsibility from Task Force Devil for coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan. Redmore is Task Force Devil's command sergeant major. Photo by Spc. Amber Robinson-Sonoda, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Army Col. John W. Nicholson Jr. of Task Force Spartan took responsibility for coalition forces in the region's 11 eastern provinces from Army Col. Patrick J. Donahue of Task Force Devil. Civil and military leaders, servicemembers, base employees, contractors and visitors attended the ceremony.
Gov. Marijadeen Patan of Khowst province, Afghan National Army Gen. Mohammad Achram Samh and U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of the coalition's Combined Joint Task Force 76, helped usher in the Spartan era.
The new task force comprises not only two infantry battalions, a field artillery battalion, a cavalry squadron and other battalions of the brigade combat team, but also a variety of attached and subordinate commands, including members of nine provincial reconstruction teams.
About 7,000 coalition personnel serve in Regional Command East.
In his remarks, Freakley reflected on the mission of Operation Enduring Freedom and called for unity against insurgents.
"We recognize that the nation of Afghanistan is at a strategic crossroads in its history, and together, we will not let this opportunity elude us," he said. "Twenty-five years of war have taken a tragic toll on this country and the people of this great land. Now is the time for this coalition team to bring peace and stability by defeating the enemy in full partnership with the Afghan people and their national security forces.
"The enemy attacks the innocent and the institutions that seek to improve the lives of the Afghan people," Freakley continued. "Such terrorist groups as al Qaeda and the Taliban have committed atrocities, and sought to intimidate, oppress and control the people.
"But the citizens of this great nation have chosen peace, prosperity and stability through the democratic process. These extremists will find that Afghanistan is no sanctuary, has not been in the last several years, and will not be in the continuing commitment of the United States and the Afghan national security forces in RC East."
Nicholson expressed his eagerness to serve with Afghan government officials as well as Afghan security forces.
"It is an honor for Task Force Spartan to serve alongside the people of this important region in this historic effort to build a free, prosperous and strong Afghanistan," he said. "Thank you for inviting us into your country, for allowing us to experience the beauty of Afghanistan and the warm hospitality of its people."
Donahue, who assumed command of Task Force Devil in May 2005, thanked provincial officials and members of the Afghan security forces for their efforts and praised the dramatic progress of the Afghan National Army.
"The amount of improvement in the ANA in this last year has been simply remarkable, and it's a source of great pride for all of us in Task Force Devil," he said. "Afghanistan will be well served by this force, and I know it will continue to grow and improve."
Donahue also reflected on the price his "Devils in Baggy Pants" paid to accomplish their mission. "They came here far from their home to help defeat our common enemy and to help rebuild Afghanistan," Donahue said. "They showed a daily willingness to sacrifice to help Afghanistan rise from the ruins of 25 years of war.
"We had 18 Americans from this task force die on this deployment, (including) four killed in action just last night in Kunar along the Pech River Road. I believe this sacrifice shows the depth of the commitment of America to the people Afghanistan."
(Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Pintagro is assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)