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10th Combat Aviation Brigade Assumes OEF Aviation Mission

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Feb. 18, 2006 – For soldiers and aviators of the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade's Task Force Falcon, the return here is like a scene from the movie "Groundhog Day."

Although it's been two years since the Fort Drum, N.Y., unit's 2004 redeployment from here, for many it seemed like only yesterday when they stood on the same flight line to accept authority of the aviation mission for Operation Enduring Freedom as part of Combined Joint Task Force 76.

That authority was handed over yesterday as Army Col. Michael Rose, Task Force Falcon commander, accepted the OEF aviation mission from Army Col. Mark McKearn, Task Force Griffin commander. McKearn leads the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Geibelstadt, Germany.

In assuming authority, Rose said the 10th CAB is eager for this latest mission and confident it can overcome the challenges ahead. He said the brigade "looks forward to playing our part on the CJTF-76 team, as we continue to prosecute and succeed in the global war against terrorism."

McKearn - whose Griffin aviators logged more than 52,000 flight hours, conducted 3,500 missions and 740 medical evacuations during the yearlong deployment - said Task Force Griffin leaves the OEF aviation mission to "no stranger." He noted that Task Force Falcon's first deployment here helped shape the environment for aviation in this theater. "The 10th CAB will continue that great tradition of taking the fight to the enemy and making Afghanistan a more stable and secure environment," he said.

Unfortunately for Task Force Griffin, that fight has not come without cost, said McKearn, as some of his troops made the ultimate sacrifice.

In 2005, Task Force Griffin lost two helicopters - one by enemy fire - and 10 crewmembers. McKearn said his brigade will never forget those soldiers and their families. "Let their memories spur you to live and work in such a way as to make their sacrifice worthwhile," he urged his comrades.

Task Force Falcon's mission is to conduct aviation operations to destroy insurgents and anti-coalition militia and defeat terrorist threats in an effort to help build the Afghan National Security Force's capability and allow the Afghan government to increase its capabilities, Rose said. In addition, the Task Force will provide logistical and aviation support for coalition forces throughout the country, conduct tactical maneuvers and perform security and attack operations if needed.

Rose pointed out that though the mission is much the same as last time, the current Task Force Falcon is much different from the one previously deployed.

Since 2004, the 10th CAB has been part of the Army's transformation plan that has restructured the organization to enhance total combat power. The number of soldiers assigned to the unit has nearly doubled.

"Transformation allows the brigade to bring a much better capability in Afghanistan than the previous rotation," Rose said, "but we also bring the same esprit de corps that was the hallmark of the first rotation."

The 10th Combat Aviation Brigade began departing its wintry upstate New York home in January, after spending more than eight months preparing for the deployment. The aviators' preparation included training crews stateside in high altitudes to simulate the environment here.

Rose said the brigade also honed its rifle marksmanship and other basic soldiering skills, which he said are the emphasis of any 10th Mountain Division soldier.

(Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample is assigned to the Task Force Falcon public affairs office.)

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